PhD, Scandinavian & Medieval Studies, UC Berkeley
MA, Scandinavian, UC Berkeley
BA, Medieval Studies, Smith College
My dissertation, "The Varangian Guard in Literature," addresses the long tradition of stories about Viking mercenaries who served in the Byzantine army as part of the elite Varangian Guard during the 10th and 11th centuries. Contemporary sources about these warriors are few and far between, but they have a notable presence in the Old Norse sagas of 13th and 14th century Iceland. By this time, they have passed from historical figures to legendary heroes, and their depictions in these narratives speak less to the factual mercenaries and more to the mentality of the later writers and audiences. As a result, the Varangian of the sagas is often highly fictionalized and deliberately placed - he is specifically crafted for a role in these stories that only someone who has spent time in Byzantium can play.
These characters offer valuable insight into the fears, fascinations, and everyday life of Saga Age Icelanders. But the Varangian legacy lives on in today's stories as well. The dissertation concludes with a chapter on how these warriors are still employed to explore themes that drive and captivate modern audiences, using two contemporary examples - the Oseram Vanguard from the video game Horizon Zero Dawn and the character Sven the Returned from the graphic novel series Northlanders.
I have taught many courses at UC Berkeley on the reflection of society in narrative, with topics across several time periods: a survey of the medieval Icelandic sagas and Old Norse language; the transmission of 19th century Gothic literature into Scandinavia; and the remaking of modern Scandinavian television shows in the US and UK.
I also regularly present papers on my research at conferences both nationally and internationally, at venues including Harvard University, UCLA, the University of Iceland, Kingston University, London, and the Norwegian Institute at Athens, Greece, as well as my home base, UC Berkeley. For a full list of conference papers, click the button above.