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Durham University

Department of English Studies


Academic Staff

Dr David Ashurst, B.Sc. Mathematics; B.A. English; M.A. Medieval Studies; Ph.D. Old Norse

Associate Professor in the Department of English Studies
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 42563
Room number: Stables 1, Hallgarth House

Contact Dr David Ashurst (email at

Dr Ashurst’s main field of research is Old Norse-Icelandic literature. Throughout his career he has been most closely associated with sagas of ancient history based on Latin originals, but during his years at Durham he has increasingly engaged with eddic and skaldic poetry, and with Old Norse masculinities. Following his study of Alexanders saga, an Old Norse-Icelandic account of Alexander the Great based on a medieval Latin epic, he has also worked on Alexander literature in Old and Middle English and Middle Scots. The main post-medieval topic on which he is currently working is the centrality of Old Norse-Icelandic literature to William Morris's erotic imagination and to the meaning of Richard Wagner's Ring. He is also keenly interested in the relationship between literature and music, and regularly supervises research on this subject.

Research Interests

  • Old Norse-Icelandic sagas and poetry
  • Medieval literature on Alexander the Great
  • Medieval masculinities
  • Works of William Morris and Richard Wagner
  • Relationship between literature and music

He is interested in supervising postgraduate students working in any of the above areas.

Past and current PhD students under his supervision have been working on the following: saga portrayals of travel to far-off lands; the Latin antecedents for a medieval Icelandic account of the pilgrim route to Rome; the copying of medieval manuscripts in seventeenth-century Iceland; Anglo-Saxon concepts of the inner man; representations of empowered females in Old Norse-Icelandic literature; and the characteristics of feminine sanctity in Old Icelandic hagiography; concepts of community in Icelandic outlaw sagas; nationalist undercurrents in nineteenth-century translations of Old Icelandic sagas; the nexus between music and the queer subculture in English literature c. 1900; music as metaphor in the modern novel, 1990-present.

Research Groups

  • Medieval Studies
  • Victorian Studies

Selected Publications

Authored book

Chapter in book

  • Ashurst, David (2019). 'Elements of Satire and Social Commentary in Heathen Praise Poems and Commemorative Odes', in Jakub Morawiec (ed.), Social Norms in Medieval Scandinavia (Kalamazoo: Arc Humanities Press). Forthcoming. In Social Norms in Medieval Scandinavia (. Morawiec, Jakub Arc Humanities Press.
  • Ashurst, David (2019). ‘Male Bedpartners and the “Intimacies of a Wife” rekkjufélagar and vífs rúnar’. In Old Norse Masculinities. Evans, Gareth Lloyd & Hancock, Jessica Boydell.
  • Ashurst, David (2013). 'Wagner, Morris, and the Sigurd Figure: Confronting Freedom and Uncertainty'. In Revisiting the Poetic Edda: Essays on Old Norse Heroic Legend. Acker, Paul & Larrington, Carolyne Routledge. 219-237.
  • Ashurst, David (2012). 'Alexander the Great'. In Heroes and Anti-heroes in Medieval Romance. Cartlidge, Neil D. S. Brewer. 27-41.
  • Ashurst, David (2011). 'Alexander Literature in English and Scots'. In A Companion to Alexander in the Middle Ages. Zuwiyya, Z. David. Brill. 255-290.
  • Ashurst, David & Vitti, Francesco (2011). 'Alexander Literature in Scandinavia'. In A Companion to Alexander in the Middle Age. Zuwiyya, Z. David Brill. 315-327.
  • Ashurst, David (2011). ‘Kings, Bishops, and Laws: The Old Norse-Icelandic Version of 1 Maccabees.’. In Myths, Legends and Heroes: Essays on Old Norse and Old English Literature in Honour of John McKinnell. Anlezark, Daniel Toronto University Press. 133-147.
  • Ashurst, David (2010). 'Old English Wisdom Poetry'. In A Companion to Medieval Poetry. Saunders, Corinne Oxford: Blackwell. 125-140.
  • Ashurst, David (2009). 'Eddic Myth, Victorian Values: The Popularisation of Old Norse Mythology in Britain, 1837 to 1876.'. In Sang an Ægir: Nordische Mythen um 1900. Schultz, Katja & Heesch, Florian Heidelberg: Winter. 45-71.
  • Ashurst, D. (2007). 'Encyclopedic Literature: Physiognomy.'. In A New Introduction to Old Norse: Part II Reader.. Faulkes, A. London: Viking Society for Northern Research. 323-332.
  • Ashurst, D. (2007). 'William Morris and the Volsungs.'. In Old Norse Made New.. Clark, D. & Phelpstead, C. London: Viking Society for Northern Research. 43-61.
  • Ashurst, D. (2006). 'Imagining Paradise'. In The Fantastic in Old Norse/Icelandic Literature. Sagas and the British isles. McKinnell, J., Ashurst, D. & Kick, D. Durham: Durham University. 1: 71-80.
  • Ashurst, D. (2005). 'Saga af Tristram ok Ísönd.’. In A New Introduction to Old Norse: Reader.. Faulkes, Anthony. London: Viking Society for Northern Research. 2: 163-172.
  • Ashurst, D (2000). ‘Journey to the Antipodes. Cosmological and Mythological Themes in Alexanders saga’. In Proceedings of the Eleventh International Saga Conference. Clunies Ross & M. Sydney: University of Sydney. 1-13.
  • Ashurst, D. (1997). ‘“We Call that Man Happy who Regards Himself as a King” Alexanders saga and the Norwegian Crown’. In Sagas and the Norwegian Experience: Tenth International Saga Conference Papers. Hagland, J.R. Trondheim: Senter for middelalderstudier. 23-32.

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