Difference between revisions of "PhD Research Proposal"

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*a near universal transformation.
*a near universal transformation.
*Primary Sources: Family Sagas (Grettir, Laxdaela, Njal), Volsunga  
*Primary Sources: Family Sagas (Grettir, Laxdaela, Njal), Volsunga  
*Secondary Sources: Danielli, Haggerty, Larrington, Schjodt, Hansen
*Secondary Sources: Danielli, Haggerty, Larrington, Schjodt, Hansen, Callow
*Research Questions:
*Research Questions:
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*a selective transformation experienced by a relative few.
*a selective transformation experienced by a relative few.
*Primary Sources: Heimskringla, Volsunga, Rígsþula
*Primary Sources: Heimskringla, Volsunga, Rígsþula
*Secondary Sources: Schjodt, Clunies-Ross  
*Secondary Sources: Schjodt, Clunies-Ross, McTurk
*Historiography: Sacral Kingship debate (how'd you get to be king?)
*Historiography: Sacral Kingship debate (how'd you get to be king?)
*Research Questions:  
*Research Questions:  

Revision as of 16:35, 20 January 2020

Personal Transformation in Medieval Scandinavian Literature: Three Case Studies

"In nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas corpora" (I intend to speak of forms changed into new entities) -- Ovid, Metamorphoses

The literature of early medieval Scandinavia reflects a world in transition: Oral culture is giving way to written; regional autonomy to nations governed by kings; and widespread conversion to Christianity, to name just a few. These are macro-level transitions, but underlying and contributing to them are myriad stories of individual and personal transformation.

My proposed thesis will take a micro-level, case study approach to explore the theme of transformation in medieval Scandinavian literature, focusing on three different types of personal transformation that occur with some degree of frequency in the sagas, and potentially in other types of tangential literature: Becoming an adult, becoming a ruler, and becoming a Christian.

In medieval Scandinavian studies, there is no shortage of research and writing on religious conversion, or on narratives about kings and rulers. The transition between childhood and adulthood is somewhat underrepresented, but has attracted recent scholarship. Taken individually, none of these topics would be promising for a dissertation-length project. However, considering them together under the lens of "transformation" would allow for comparative analysis of themes, language, and processes that might otherwise remain obscure. It would also allow for a more interdisciplinary approach, grounded in literary analysis, but drawing from psychology, anthropology, and history of religions.

Becoming an Adult

  • a near universal transformation.
  • Primary Sources: Family Sagas (Grettir, Laxdaela, Njal), Volsunga
  • Secondary Sources: Danielli, Haggerty, Larrington, Schjodt, Hansen, Callow
  • Historiography:
  • Research Questions:
  • Limitations:

Becoming a Ruler

  • a selective transformation experienced by a relative few.
  • Primary Sources: Heimskringla, Volsunga, Rígsþula
  • Secondary Sources: Schjodt, Clunies-Ross, McTurk
  • Historiography: Sacral Kingship debate (how'd you get to be king?)
  • Research Questions:
  • Limitations:

Becoming a Christian

  • a progressive transformation, experienced selectively at first, and then by increasing numbers of individuals.
  • Primary Sources: Njal, Hallfreðr, Heimskringla
  • Secondary Sources: Abram, Antonsson, Gronlie, Rambo
  • Historiography:
  • Research Questions:
  • Limitations:

Why? So What?

Why Me? Why Aberdeen?

  • My background in Literature, Education and Theology (which are focused on individual transformation)
  • Why Aberdeen and Dr. Burrows? Her familiarity with the intersection of literature and religion/mythology, interest in Norse language, culture & society. Also familiarity with skaldic poetry and legal sources, which I would like to explore. Aberdeen's interdisciplinary approach, unique focus on early medieval Scandinavian/Northern culture, language, literature, etc. Also my necessity for part-time/distance learning.

From the Aberdeen Website

Applicants must submit a detailed research proposal. The full proposal, preferably between 1,000 and 1,500 words, should include at least the following elements:

  • a clear description of the proposed thesis topic, indicating the research problem and expected scope of the investigation;
  • a description of how the proposed topic fits into the existing field;
  • an indication of how the research is to be carried out (e.g. study of written sources, social surveys, fieldwork);
  • an indication of why the University of Aberdeen is suited to the proposed research (e.g. staff expertise, library or archival resources).

Primary Sources

  • Scudder, Bernard, translator. The Saga of Grettir the Strong. Penguin, 2005.
  • Kunz, Keneva, translator. “The Saga of the People of Laxardal.” The Sagas of Icelanders, Penguin Classics, 2001, pp. 270–421.
  • Bayerschmidt, Carl F., and Lee M. Hollander. Njáls Saga. Wordsworth Editions Ltd., 1998.
  • Byock, Jesse L., translator. The Saga of the Volsungs. Penguin Classics, 2000.
  • Sturluson, Snorri. Heimskringla: History of the Kings of Norway. Translated by L. M. Hollander, University of Texas Press for the American-Scandinavian Foundation, 2005.
  • Larrington, Carolyne, translator. The Poetic Edda. Oxford University Press, 2014.
  • Whaley, Diana, translator. “The Saga of Hallfred Troublesome-Poet.” Sagas of Warrior Poets, Penguin Classics, 2002.

Secondary Sources

  • Danielli
  • Haggerty
  • Larrington
  • Schjodt
  • Hansen, Anna. "Representation of Children in Early Icelandic Society." (unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Sydney, 2006).
  • Schjodt
  • Clunies-Ross
  • Abram, Christopher. "Modeling Religious Experience in Old Norse Conversion Narratives: The Case of Óláfr Tryggvason and Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld," Speculum 90, no. 1 (January 2015): 114-157.


  • Antonsson, Haki. "Traditions of Conversion in Medieval Scandinavia: A Synthesis." Saga-Book 34 (2010). 25-74.
  • Gronlie
  • Rambo
  • McTurk, Rory. "Scandinavian Sacral Kingship Revisited." Saga-Book 24 (1994-1997). 19-32.
  • Callow, Chris. "Transitions to Adulthood in Early Icelandic Society," Children, Childhood and Society, S. Crawford & G. Shepherd, editors. (Oxford, 2007): 45-55.

Fun Quotes / Inspiration

“I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.” – Lewis Carroll from Alice in Wonderland

"Most people in America, when they are exposed to the Christian faith, are not being transformed. They take one step into the door, and the journey ends . . . Yet in many ways a focus on spiritual formation fits what a new generation is really seeking. Transformation is a process, a journey, not a one-time decision.” ― David Kinnaman, unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity... and Why It Matters

"few things have more transformative power than people and stories.” ― Shane Claiborne

"Oh king, eh, very nice. An' how'd you get that, eh? ― Monty Python: Quest for the Holy Grail


  • SW: 1,947 words - (341 intro & thesis; 486 historiography; 667 chapter breakdown; 152 conclusion; 301 why aberdeen) 8 primary; 21 secondary.
  • JH: 950 words - (305 intro & thesis; 388 themes & historiography; 101 methodology; 153 impact) 6 primary sources; 9 secondary.