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Featured Member: Sheryl McDonald Werronen (University of Copenhagen)

6 Jan 2016 1:06 PM | Andrew Klein

To open 2016, we have Sheryl McDonald Werronen as January's Medievalist of the Month!


PhD in English, focusing on Old Norse literature, University of Leeds (2013).

MA in Medieval English Literature, University of Leeds (2009).

BA (Honours) in Medieval Studies with a minor in Linguistics, University of Victoria (2008).

You’re arriving at an airport for a research trip and the border control agent asks what you do. How do you answer?

When I’m asked what I do when travelling, I usually just say I’m an academic. If I’m arriving in Iceland or Denmark, I’ll often add that I do research on Old Norse literature and manuscripts, since this usually doesn’t seem too ‘out there’ to the border control agents in those countries!

What projects are you currently working on?

Since finishing my doctoral research on late medieval Old Norse romance, I’m finding my work is increasingly moving into post-medieval spheres. I find this especially exciting because post-Reformation Iceland’s literature and cultural attitudes are often concerned with the country’s medieval works of literature (which continue to be copied by hand), so I also get to think about the Middle Ages from a new point of view. My current projects reflect this:

  • I’m just starting a new postdoctoral research project at the University of Copenhagen’s Arnamagnæan Institue, funded by the European Commission through a Marie Curie Individual Fellowship. I will be researching the manuscripts and scribal networks connected to a wealthy and influential Icelander named Magnús Jónsson í Vigur, who lived in the 17th century. The manuscripts contain a huge amount of Old Norse literature, so I will be thinking a lot about the early reception of medieval texts and the relationship between script and print in Iceland. One of the main outputs of this project will be an electronic edition of one of Magnús’s manuscripts.
  • I’m collaborating with three colleagues to prepare an edition of Ambrósíus saga og Rósamundu, an Icelandic text that first appears in manuscript around 1700, based on a Danish story that uses well-known motifs and themes from medieval literature, including the ‘pound of flesh’ motif.

In addition to these larger projects, I’m also working on other publications, including a short introductory book on Old Norse literature that I was invited to write by Kismet Press, a new UK-based Open Access publisher.

What do you think is the best part of being a medievalist?

I love how diverse the field of medieval studies is — not simply in terms of the vast span of time we’ve agreed to lump together as ‘medieval’, but in terms of the variety of approaches we use to study the period, the many different sub-fields, and the intrinsically interdisciplinary nature of what many (if not all) of us do.

Why did you join the CSM? What other societies do you belong to?

In 2015 I noticed the CSM’s increased presence on social media and this reminded me that I had been considering joining for a while. Having been in Europe for the past 7+ years the CSM was not at first an obvious society to join (unfortunately it wasn’t on my radar as an undergraduate), but since finishing my PhD in 2013, I’ve wanted to extend and re-establish my network back into Canada.

I am also a member of the Viking Society for Northern Research, based in the UK.

Where can we find/read some of your work?

My first book, Popular Romance in Iceland, will be out in 2016 from Amsterdam University Press, and I’ve published articles in Saga-BookDigital PhilologyBulletin of International Medieval Research, and Leeds Studies in English. I’m also active on Twitter (@smcdwer) and during September 2015, I tweeted about a different Old Norse romance every day with the hashtag #riddarasaga; it’s this kind of literature that my forthcoming book discusses. The CSM was also kind enough to re-tweet some of this at the time, and a full archive can be accessed from my website.

Any final thoughts?

I’m really glad to be a member of the CSM, and it’s been lovely hearing about other members through Medievalist of the Month! I look forward to the possibility of meeting these and other members at conferences in the future.

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