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Multiple awards to UCPH research into ancient sagas

Honours — Two researchers from the Department of Nordic Studies and Linguistics recognised for their work in Old Norse literature. It is the Einar Hansen Research Foundation which pays tribute to their "excellent humanities research”.

From 2019, you can unfortunately no longer study Icelandic, old Icelandic or Faroese at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH). But Einar Hansen’s Research Foundation awards this year the research that is still engaged in Old Norse language, culture and history.

PhD and associate professor in Old Norse Philology Annette Larsen has been “the driving force behind the Nordic cooperation which has given new life to the sagas in the languages of the present”. This is the justification for Einar Hansen’s Research Foundation honouring the researcher with this year’s DKK 100,000 Danish Prize for excellence in humanities research.

Colleague and professor Matthew Driscoll will also receive an honorary award for his work on the digitisation of the old Scandinavian literature.

‘Game of Thrones’- research

There would be no Game of Thrones without the sagas, Annette Lassen told the University post when we interviewed her in 2016. And the recognised UCPH researcher is partially responsible for the present popularity of the ancient sagas. The associate professor in Old Norse philology has been the editor of several newer translations of the ancient writings.

In 2014, five volumes of ‘the Icelandic sagas’ appeared. Since then, in 2016 the series ‘Oldtidssagaerne’ or ‘Ancient sagas’ was published and in the book ‘Islændingesagaernes verden’ or ‘The world of the Icelandic sagas’ from 2017 Annette Lassen summarises everything that is worth knowing about the works.

The results of this humanities research are so prevalent in our daily lives that you might forget to see it

Award winner Annette Lassen

And it is the work in modernising the ancient sagas and making them available to a wider audience, that Einar Hansen’s Research Foundation emphasises in its justification for honouring the researcher. According to the foundation, Annette Lassen’s work with the history of the texts, has also been “characterised by interdisciplinary insight and interdisciplinary importance”.

And the researcher is grateful to receive an award for this work:

“I am happy and proud, first and foremost! The prize is both a recognition of my research and the work I have put into communicating Icelandic sagas and the ancient sagas in newer translations on a scientific basis.”

The sagas are still relevant

But the associate professor says the prize also sends an important signal that the study of Norse philology is important to support and maintain:


In the Foundation’s Board of Directors there are researchers from the universities of Copenhagen and Lund, and it aims for cooperation between the two universities on opposite sides of the Øresund between Denmark and Sweden.

The Foundation promotes research as well as scientific cooperation and contacts within the humanities disciplines. It also provides grants to publish scientific material on experiences within the area.

“The award is also recognition that my research area – the old Icelandic literature and its text history – is an important subject area. And this is important in a time when UCPH has recently shut down the teaching in Icelandic.”

The Einar Hansen’s Research Foundation focusses on the excellent research which takes place on South Campus. And it has great relevance, says Annette Lassen:

“The humanities is derogated in Denmark by many politicians in recent years. But humanities research contributes to us making sense of our culture and history without allowing ourselves to be influenced by preconceived opinions and myths.”

Annette Lassen has no doubts in her mind that research in the humanities is necessary today:

“The results of the humanities research are so prevalent in our daily life that we might forget to see it. As everyone knows, the humanities are the basis of a certain level of general education that is indispensable in a civilised society. This is why it is important to remind ourselves of the importance of the humanities!”

Digital humanities

The Foundation has also plenty of praise for Matthew Driscoll, Professor of Old Norse Philology, who gets a DKK 25,000 honorary award for his work on the digitalisation of Old Norse literature.

“The digitalisation has not been a simple transfer of known methods, but a rethinking from the ground up. Something that has opened up completely new opportunities. Matthew Driscoll has been a pioneer long before anyone started talking about the digital humanities”, it states in the press release from Einar Hansen’s Research Foundation.