Nordic Research

The Northern Scholars Lectures: Emily Lethbridge

About the lecture

Place-names, narratives and the environmental history of Iceland

By Dr Emily Lethbridge

Medieval Icelandic written sources such as Landnámabók and the sagas of early Icelanders (Íslendingasögur) are a rich data source for Icelandic place-names. Often, attempts are made in these works to explain the origins of place-names and larger narrative units are interspersed with short (and often entertaining) anecdotes about how individual place-names came to be. These etymological anecdotes serve various narrative purposes but not least, they illustrate the nature of the reciprocal relationship between the new settlers and the previously uninhabited landscapes of Iceland. In scrutinising these place-names, much can be gleaned that pertains to the environmental history of Iceland. In this lecture, an overview of the evidence will be presented, and some individual examples analysed.   

About the speaker

Dr Emily Lethbridge holds a PhD in Old Norse literature from the University of Cambridge. She is currently Research lecturer and Head of the Department for Name Studies (Nafnfræðisvið) at the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, Reykjavík, Iceland. She also teaches on the University of Iceland’s Medieval Icelandic Studies and Viking and Medieval Norse Studies MA-programme.

Emily’s research focuses on the medieval literature of Iceland, in particular, its transmission in manuscripts (medieval and post-medieval) and via the landscapes and place-names of Iceland. She has edited books on Icelandic manuscript culture, the relationship between Icelandic literature and landscapes, and onomastics, as well as several annual volumes of the Árni Magnússon Institute journal Gripla. She has also authored numerous journal articles and book chapters on these topics as well as on the tradition of 19th-century literary tourism in Iceland, and on her digital mapping project Icelandic Saga Map.

The event is free and no booking is required.

Departmental seminar

While in Edinburgh, Emily will also give a departmental seminar in the School of Geosciences on using medieval Icelandic narrative sources in research. The event takes place at 1-2pm on Thursday 30th January in the Old Library (Old Infirmary Building), High School Yards, Edinburgh. The seminar aims to give students interested in using medieval Icelandic sources some critical and methodological pointers, as well as a useful overview of what material exists and how accessible it is. It is free and no booking is required.

About the Northern Scholars 

The Northern Scholars Scheme was established at the University of Edinburgh in 1956.

Its role is to foster co-operation between scholars of Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, and colleagues in the University of Edinburgh.

Mutual areas of interest include aspects of linguistics, and historical and other cultural studies which are common to these countries and to Scotland. 

Each year, the Northern Scholars Scheme Committee sponsors visits by scholars of the member countries to Edinburgh, during which time they give departmental seminars and public lectures.

Find out more about the Northern Scholars

Are you interested in Scandinavian Studies at Edinburgh?

We are the only university in Scotland, and one of only two in the UK, to offer undergraduate honours programmes in Scandinavian Studies, enabling you to learn modern Danish, Swedish or Norwegian in the context of Scandinavian culture, past and present. We also welcome candidates for postgraduate research degrees (MSc by Research and PhD) in various aspects of Nordic languages, literature, history, culture and society.

Find out more about Scandinavian Studies at Edinburgh 

Related links

Visit the Icelandic Saga Map website

Jan 29 2020 -

The Northern Scholars Lectures: Emily Lethbridge

'Place-names, narratives and the environmental history of Iceland'. A free public lecture by Dr Emily Lethbridge (Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Research).

Room G.06
50 George Square