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PhD graduate wins Celtic and Scottish Studies’ second Zeuss Prize in two years

Dr Anne Macleod Hill has been awarded Societas Celtologica Europaea’s prize for best new PhD thesis.

Photo of the Zeuss Prize winner
Anne Macleod Hill on the day of her PhD thesis submission

For the second year running, a PhD graduate in Celtic and Scottish Studies at the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC) has been awarded the Johann-Kaspar-Zeuß-Prize.

Awarded by Societas Celtologica Europaea, a European society to promote cooperation among scholars working in all the Celtic languages and literatures, the Prize is for the best PhD thesis in Celtic Studies, with submission by the candidate’s supervisor(s).

In what was a record year for submissions, Dr Anne (Annie) Macleod Hill has won the 2017 Prize for her thesis, ‘The Pelican in the Wilderness: Symbolism and allegory in women’s evangelical songs of the Gàidhealtachd’.

Last year, the Prize went to LLC graduate, Dr Peadar Ó Muircheartaigh, now Lecturer in Celtic Studies at Aberystwyth University, for his work on Gaelic dialects.

‘There is a real possibility of each undergraduate making a significant contribution’

Originally a designer and illustrator, Annie Macleod Hill first came to LLC as an undergraduate, completing an MA in Celtic Studies.

Talking about her route to a PhD, she says “Part of the fascination of Celtic Studies is that, being a relatively small discipline, there is a real possibility of each individual undergraduate making a significant contribution.

Each of us has their own unique history and each brings something of their own to the programme, in my case, my family background in the Isle of Lewis.

I never expected to become so involved [but] improving my command of the language opened up a literary world which had been completely unknown to me, leading me on from MA to MSc, then almost inevitably, on to a PhD”.

‘The obvious choice for anyone undertaking a PhD involving Gaelic poetry and song’

Annie’s choice of Gaelic women's spiritual song as a PhD subject was “driven by a growing realisation that these songs carry a record of the spiritual, cultural, and domestic history of Highland Scotland which is unique to themselves – a record which is becoming increasingly inaccessible as understanding of their cultural context is lost”.

She decided to pursue her PhD in Celtic and Scottish Studies at LLC on the strength of the department's staff and resources, saying “The School of Scottish Studies Sound Archive, the University Library's Centre for Research Collections, the proximity of the National Library of Scotland with its Gaelic Manuscript Collection, not to mention the range of research interests covered by our own academic staff, make Edinburgh the obvious choice for anyone undertaking a PhD which in any way involves Gaelic poetry and song”.

Her intention is to continue with her research, compiling an anthology which will include background material on the poets and the historical context within which they composed, and she is currently involved in New College's History of Scottish Theology Project, writing a chapter on the reception of Reformed theology in Gaelic women's evangelical song.

Annie was supervised for her PhD by Wilson McLeod, Professor of Gaelic at LLC, and Dr Anja Gunderloch, Lecturer in Celtic, who says:

"It is extremely gratifying that the excellence of Annie's ground-breaking and meticulously researched thesis has been recognised by the award of this year's Johann-Kaspar-Zeuß-Prize. 

Not only did Annie compile an extensive corpus of women's spiritual songs from a multitude of sources, she also analysed and contextualised the material with great clarity and perceptiveness in order to demonstrate the significance of these songs in the field of Gaelic literature and culture".

Are you interested in studying Celtic and Scottish Studies at LLC?

Home to the longest established Celtic department in Scotland, we offer a range of four-year undergraduate degrees and a great mix of postgraduate programmes, both taught and research-led. Our fantastic resources include the School of Scottish Studies Archives, which was founded in 1951 to collect, archive and promote the cultural traditions of the nation.

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