Anja Gunderloch

Lecturer in Celtic


Dr Anja Gunderloch graduated with First Class Honours from this university in 1990 as the first student who took the then new degree in Scottish Ethnology and Celtic. She followed this up with a PhD on The Cath Gabhra Family of Ballads: a Study in Textual Relationships in 1997. After four years as a lecturer in the Department of Celtic at the University of Glasgow, she returned to Edinburgh to take up a lectureship in Celtic in 2001, since when she has been doing her best to introduce students to the wonders of Gaelic literature (and a little bit of grammar or metrics now and again, for variety). When she needs to calm down after all the excitement of teaching and research, she knits.


  • MA (Edinburgh)
  • PhD (Edinburgh)

Undergraduate teaching

  • Teaching on CELT08004 Gaelic 1A, CELT08005 Gaelic 1B, CELT08006 Gaelic 2A, and CELT08007 Gaelic 2B
  • Contributor to CELT08014 Celtic Civilisation 1A and CELT08015 Celtic Civilisation 1B
  • Course Organiser for CELT08013 Celtic Literature 2B
  • Honours Organiser (Celtic)
  • Convener of Staff-Student Liaison Committee (Celtic)
  • C&SS representative on LLC Board of Studies and Undergraduate Studies Group
  • Conference organiser: Saoghal(an) Dhonnchaidh Bhàin – The World(s) of Donnchadh Bàn (July 2012)

Honours courses

Areas of interest for supervision

  • PhD: ‘Women’s spiritual poetry in Gaelic literary tradition’ (A.M. MacLeod Hill, in progress)
  • PhD: ‘The Musical World of Rob Donn MacKay’ (E.L. Beard, in progress)
  • PhD: ‘Flann Mainistrech’ (E.P. Thanisch, in progress)
  • PhD: ‘“With heart and voice ever devoted to the cause”: Women in the Gaelic Movement, 1886–1914’ (P. Scott, in progress)
  • PhD: ‘The quest for identity in Sorley Maclean's “An Cuilithionn”: journeying into politics and beyond’ (E.B. Dymock, 2008)
  • PhD: ‘Celts and Germans of the first century BC-second century AD: an old question, a modern synthesis’ (C.J. O’Hara, 2005)
  • Internal Examiner (PhD): 'The evolution of Deirdriu in the Ulster cycle’ (K.L. Mathis, 2010)
  • Internal Examiner (PhD): ‘Eadar Dà Chànan: Self-Translation, the Bilingual Edition and Modern Scottish Gaelic Poetry’ (C. Krause, 2007)
  • Internal Examiner (PhD): ‘The development of the Lewis House in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with particular emphasis on the Bragar Township’ (C. Mackie, 2005)
  • Internal Examiner (PhD): ‘The secular poetry of John MacLean, “Bárd Thighearna Chola”, “Am Bárd MacGilleain”’ (R.D. Dunbar, 2006)
  • Internal Examiner (PhD): ‘The Relic Lays: a study of the development of Late Middle Gaelic Fianaigheacht’ (J.J.F. Flahive, 2004)
  • MSc by Research: ‘Sacral Kingship in Ireland and Royal Inauguration Rituals’ (S. Ball, 2011)
  • MSc by Research: ‘Na Bana-bhàird Spioradail’ (A.M. MacLeod Hill, 2011)
  • MSc by Research: ‘An Ceòl sna h-Òrain: Twelve Songs by Rob Donn MacKay’ (E.L. Beard, 2011)
  • MSc by Research: ‘Perspectives on the Use of Frame-Dialogue in Medieval Gaelic Literature’ (E.P. Thanisch, 2010)
  • MSc by Research: ‘The Social Uses of the Fenian Cycle in Early Modern Scotland’ (J.D. Hearns, 2010)
  • MSc by Research: ‘Reading between the Lines: Perspectives on the Women Collectors of Gaelic Lore in the late Victorian and Edwardian Period (c. 1870-1920’ (P. Scott, 2008)
  • MSc by Research: ‘Symbolism of Birds in the Fourth Branch of the Pedeir Keinc’ (A. Lacey, 2005)
  • MSc by Research: ‘In the Shadow of the Heroic Mountain: The Significance of Sorley MacLean’s Choice of Hero’ (E.B. Dymock, 2004)

Research summary

Anja’s main research interests lie in Scottish Gaelic poetry, mostly covering the period from the sixteenth century to the end of the First World War. The genre of Gaelic heroic ballads, which was shared with Gaelic Ireland, forms a major aspect of her research. Originating in the prestigious context of the Classical Gaelic language, the ballads formed a prestigious genre over centuries, and were much loved for their entertainment value once they had made the transition into vernacular Gaelic. The main focus of Anja’s ballad research lies on the texts preserved in Gaelic Scotland and their development over time, although their Irish counterparts offer many opportunities for fruitful comparison. The ballads, many of which feature Fionn mac Cumhaill and his companions as their protagonists, are complemented by prose narratives belonging to the same literary context. As much of this material is unedited and only available in manuscript form, she does not expect to run out of exciting discoveries any time soon. Another strand of her research looks into the compilers and collectors of such manuscript materials, and such investigation offers insights not only into the literary culture of the Gàidhealtachd but also the intellectual currents and conditions that stimulated the writing-down of songs and poems previously preserved in the oral tradition, especially in the eighteenth and nineteenth century.

Anja is also engaged in researching the work of Donnchadh Bàn Mac an t-Saoir, one of the famous Gaelic poets of the eighteenth century, whose work covers praise, love, humour, satire, and nature. Donnchadh Bàn’s poetry contains both traditional and innovative elements and, in combination with his skill at detailed description and his ability to laugh at himself, this makes him a quite irresistible figure in the field of Gaelic literature. A poet without much formal education, Donnchadh Bàn nevertheless saw three editions of his work published in his lifetime and his songs offer insights into how ‘oral’ and ‘literary’ aspects are intertwined in Gaelic poetry. Two editions were published by subscription, and the lists of subscribers contain a great deal of previously unconsidered information about the many different individuals from all walks of life who bought Gaelic books at the turn of the nineteenth century.

In a rare foray into modern times, Anja has investigated the career and writings of Charles Loch, a learner of Gaelic who compiled a series of unpublished dictionaries; she hopes to edit his other Gaelic writings at some point in the future. The language and culture of the Isle of Man form another aspect of her research, including the development of literature in Manx and its relationship with Irish and Scottish Gaelic material.

  • Gaelic heroic ballads (with emphasis on Scotland)
  • The manuscripts of Gaelic Scotland
  • The poetry of Donnchadh Bàn Mac an t-Saoir
  • Oral and literary aspects of Gaelic poetry
  • Gaelic poetry from the fifteenth century to 1918
  • The Gaelic writings of Charles Loch
  • Language and culture of the Isle of Man