Dr Katherine Marie Olley

Dr Katherine Marie Olley, V H Galbraith Junior Research Fellow

Dr Katherine Marie Olley is the VH Galbraith Junior Research Fellow in Medieval Studies.  As an undergraduate, she studied Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic at Trinity College, Cambridge.  She then moved to Newnham College, Cambridge to study for her MPhil in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, funded by a Newton Trust Award from the Cambridge Home and European Scholarship Scheme (2014–15).  She returned to Trinity College for her DPhil, funded by an AHRC-Trinity studentship from the Arts and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Training Partnership (2015–18).  Her doctoral research explored the nature of kinship in Old Norse myth and legend, focusing especially on parent-child relationships, and was supervised by Dr Judy Quinn. She subsequently went on to become a Teaching Fellow in Old Norse at University College London (2018–19) before joining St Hilda’s.

Katherine’s three-year research project ‘Birth in Old Norse Literature and Society’ explores the depiction and cultural significance of childbirth in medieval Iceland.  Studying birth narratives from the many diverse genres of Old Norse literature, including poetry, the Icelandic sagas, medieval Icelandic ballads and miracle collections, and engaging with anthropological analyses of birth as a moment of social microcosm, the project examines how birth narratives reflect and challenge the power structures and values of Old Norse society.  Intersecting with questions of gender, emotion and personhood, her work aims to show how the effects of birth in Old Norse literature extend beyond the female experience, and even beyond the human, and can offer new insight into what life was like in medieval Iceland.