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Durham University

Department of English Studies

Event Archive

This is an archive of past events within the Department of English Studies. Please see our current events for forthcoming activities.

Some of our public events are recorded and are available as podcasts via our Research English At Durham blog.

Then Egil Became Sad: Wandering Across Scandinavia in Egils Saga

14th August 2019, 17:30 to 18:30, Alington House, 4 North Bailey, Kate Marlow

Late Summer Lectures is back for 2019! Join us at our free series, open to everyone from schools and students to members of the public, In this opening talk, Kate Marlow will take us on a trip round Scandinavia, guided by one of the adventuring heroes of thirteenth-century literature.

About this Public Lecture

Egils Saga is a text that describes the travels of a single family around the Scandinavian sprawl as they negotiate relationships with the places and peoples they encounter. It also reflects the concerns of both the time it was written, the mid thirteenth century, and the time it was set, the tenth century. My presentation will give the audience an overview of the saga, before embarking on an analysis of the text. The saga’s protagonist, Egil, is born and brought up in Iceland, but makes his name as a warrior-poet in Norway and England, where he interacts with the royal courts to gain notoriety. His situation in Norway is made more difficult by the fact that his father and grandfather had offended King Harald Finehair before they migrated from Norway, but Egil himself maintains this poor relationship across the generations with Harald’s son, Eric Bloodaxe. Conversely, Egil is able to establish a positive relationship with the English King Æthelstan, but his position in England is made precarious by the establishment of Eric’s kingdom in Northumbria. The saga recalls the ways in which the Icelanders had to manage their relationships abroad in tenth century, when their connection to Norway was still very recent, while also referencing the thirteenth century, when Iceland had been independent for generations, but the threat of Norwegian control was rising. The text shows how the Icelanders wished themselves to be viewed by the rest of Scandinavia and the Scandinavian holdings, as well as articulating contemporary and ongoing concerns about the place of Iceland in Europe. It also depicts Iceland as a place of freedom and ideal heroic behaviour, while acknowledging that the wanderlust of the ideal Icelandic hero can never be satisfied within the bounds of the island.

About Kate Marlow

Kate Marlow is a second year PhD student in the Department of History at Durham. Her PhD research is on the formation of ethnic identity in Anglo-Saxon England and medieval Iceland. Her undergraduate degree is in English Literature from Trinity College Dublin, and she uses interdisciplinary techniques from English and History in my studies in order to access a range of sources and interpretations. Over the course of her studies she has taken particular interest in heroic literature such as Beowulf and the Icelandic sagas, and high fantasy such as The Lord of the Rings.


Is the lecture suitable for me?

Late Summer Lectures is designed to be open to a wide audience, from university or sixth-form students to members of the public. It aims to convey the latest postgraduate and early career research, so lectures will be rooted in academic ideas and principles; however, lecturers should present these in a clear way. There will be an opportunity to ask questions afterwards or to chat further over refreshments. You can get a sense of what to expect by listening to some of our previous lectures (although most live lectures will also be accompanied by visuals which can help to convey ideas).

Is the venue and lecture accessible?

The Ritson Hall in Alington House is located at the end of a corridor, wide enough for wheelchair access. A lift is available at the end. The organisers or Alington House reception staff will be available to assist. Unfortunately we are not able to provide sign language interpreters for each lecture. If there are any ways in which we could help you to attend the event please contact the organisers at

What are my transport/parking options for getting to and from the event?

Please visit the Alington House website for full details.

Do I have to bring my printed ticket to the event?

If the event reaches its limit, priority will be given to those who have reserved a ticket in advance via Eventbrite. We advise that you bring a copy on your phone just in case.

Contact for more information about this event.

Related Links


Research in English At Durham (READ) blog showcasing the the literary research emerging from the Department of English Studies


We host a large number of conferences, lectures and seminars each year, many of them open to the public. Find out more on our Events page.


Many of our public lectures, seminars and conferences are recorded, and can be listened to as podcasts.

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