Em. Prof. Heather O’Donoghue
Emeritus Professor Heather O’Donoghue is a Fellow of Linacre College at the University of Oxford. Her primary field of research is Old Norse-Icelandic literature – that is, the poetry and prose of medieval Iceland and Norway. She has also worked and published on relations between Old Norse-Icelandic literature and Old English literature, and is interested in links with Old and Middle Irish. Most of her recent research has been on the reception of Old Norse literature in post-medieval European culture – primarily, but not exclusively, European and American literature – and the afterlife of Old Norse myth, especially in its political dimension.
In 2014 her book English Poetry and Old Norse Myth was published by Oxford University Press. It begins with possible Scandinavian elements in Old English poetry (especially Beowulf) and traces the continuing and developing influence of Old Norse myth, taking in such poets as Dryden and Pope, Thomas Gray and William Blake, Wordsworth and Coleridge, Walter Scott, Matthew Arnold, William Morris, Hugh MacDiarmid and David Jones, W.H. Auden, and Seamus Heaney, as well as a large number of less mainstream poets, particularly contemporary ones. Other works include From Asgard to Valhalla: The Remarkable History of the Norse Myths (2007, 2nd edition forthcoming). On-going work includes editing the Cambridge History of Old Norse-Icelandic Literature.
In the last few years, she has published a number of papers on the reception of Old Norse myth and literature, investigating the influence of Old Norse myth on novelists such as Thomas Hardy, R.L. Stevenson, Herman Melville, Gunter Grass and Neil Gaiman. Her monograph Narrative in the Icelandic Sagas: Meanings of Time in Old Norse Literature was published by Bloomsbury in 2021, and she has just written a book on Beowulf. She has also broadcast with the BBC on the topic of the Norse Gods.
Heather has also published and lectured on contemporary crime fiction and was a judge for the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger Award, and after that, for the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for contemporary thrillers.
Outside academia, Heather’s main interests are birdwatching, natural history more generally, watching football and listening to Irish traditional music. Based in Oxford, she spends part of the year in rural Ireland with her husband and family. Heather has led ASA’s tour ‘Iceland, Land of Ice and Fire: Myths, Legends and Landscapes’ since 2018.
- Narrative in the Icelandic Family Saga, Bloomsbury Academic, 2021
- ‘A Place in Time: Old Norse Myth and Contemporary Poetry in English and Scots’, in Studies in the Transmission and Reception of Old Nose Literature, Brepols, 2016
- ‘The Reception of Eddic Poetry’, in A Handbook to Eddic Poetry: Myths and Legends of Early Scandinavia, Cambridge University Press, 2016
- English Poetry and Old Norse Myth, Oxford University Press, 2014
- ‘Old Wine in New Bottles: Tradition and Innovation in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy’, in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012
- ‘Historical and Archaeological Poetry of Recovery and Memory’, in The Oxford handbook of Contemporary British and Irish Poetry, Oxford University Press, 2012
- ‘ “The Wife’s Lament” and “Helreiö Brynhildar”: Different Responses to Similar Lives?’, in Stanzas of Friendship: Studies in Honour of Tatjana N. Jackson, Moscow, 2011
- ‘Owed to Both sides: W.H. Auden’s Double Debt to the Literature of the North’, in Anglo-Saxon Culture and the Modern Imagination, D.S. Brewer, 2010
- ‘Heaney, Beowulf and the Medieval Literature of the North’, in The Cambridge Companion to Seamus Heaney, Cambridge University Press, 2009
- ‘Miögarösormr’, in Archipelago, vol.3, 2009
- Old Norse-Icelandic Literature: A Short Introduction, John Wiley & Sons, 2008
- From Asgard to Valhalla. The Remarkable History of the Norse Myths, I.B. Tauris, 2008
- Skaldic verse and the poetics of saga narrative, Oxford University Press, 2005
Heather first joined ASA in 2018 and has since led three ASA tours to Iceland
Iceland, Land of Ice and Fire: Myths, Legends and Landscapes (2018, 2019 & 2023)