I’m a cultural historian, broadcaster and writer based at Durham University, where I’m Associate Professor of Medieval History and Literature. Much of my research and teaching has explored the cultures, literatures and languages of the medieval north, particularly Viking Age history and Old Norse-Icelandic literature. I also teach Old English language and literature. At its core, much of my work is about the relationship between human culture and the non-human world. I’m interested in how the physical environment affects the construction of identity and memory, and the close connections between geography—real and imagined—and the stories humans tell about the world, their place in it, and their past. I’m most curious about wild landscapes, borderlands, liminal spaces—forests, wastelands, ice—where the lines between fact and fantasy start to blur. Beyond that, I have strong interests in arctic studies, and the historical landscapes of the British Isles.
My broadcasting career began when I was chosen as a BBC / AHRC New Generation Thinker back in 2013. This is a national competition that aims to find young academics with the potential to turn their research into broadcasts for radio and TV. As soon as I was let loose in Broadcasting House and placed behind a microphone, I was hooked on public engagement and communication – it’s wonderfully fulfilling and occasionally surreal. In the name of information, education and entertainment, I’ve been knighted with a walrus penis bone, bewitched in Sherwood Forest, chased by imaginary zombies through the basement of the BBC, and dunked in a hole in the ice in a quest for immortality. You can find out whether I achieved eternal life (and escaped the zombies) by following some of the links here.