School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

Staff Profile

Emeritus Professor Diana Whaley

Emeritus Professor / Professor Emeritus of Early Medieval Studies



BA (Durham), Bacc.Phil.Isl. (Iceland), DPhil (Oxford)

Being born and brought up in York before it was quite so 'heritaged' gave me a love of all things medieval, and, together with a lifelong fascination with language and texts, and with what C. S. Lewis called 'Northernness', this has resulted in a career as an all-purpose English medievalist with a particular interest in Old Norse-Icelandic texts and English place-names. After study in Durham, Reykjavík and Oxford, and a Junior Research Fellowship at St Hilda's College, Oxford, I taught Old and Middle English, History of the English Language, English Place-Names and Old Norse in Newcastle from 1978. Since retiring in September 2014, I continue to be active in research (please see my Research profile for ongoing work), while finding a little more time for some neglected aspects of life.

I am currently a Vice-President of the Viking Society for Northern Research and of the Society for Name Studies in Britain and Ireland. Closer to home, I enjoy links with MEMS (Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Newcastle University), the Bernician Studies Group and the Newcastle upon Tyne Society of Antiquaries. 


Research Interests

Most of my publications to date are in the fields of: 

– Old Norse-Icelandic literature, especially skaldic poetry and sagas of poets, historical writings including sagas of kings, and sagas of bishops.

– Onomastics, especially the place-names of Northern England.

(Until my retirement in autumn 2014 I also taught Old English language and literature, and Middle English literature including Chaucer and medieval drama.)

Current Work

Most of my research at present concerns English place-names. I am working on a one-volume dictionary of the place-names of Northumberland for the English Place-Name Society, as well as following lines of enquiry that arise from that. I am also currently running the project 'Northumberland Name Books: Places and People c. 1860', with the help of over twenty splendid volunteers. We aim to digitise and transcribe the Ordnance Survey Name Books for Northumberland. These contain the information behind the First Edition and subsequent OS maps, and offer fascinating insights into the landscape of the county, and its industrial, social and cultural life in the mid 19th century.

I am one of six General Editors for the international project, Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages ( Founded in 1997, the project is dedicated to producing a comprehensive 9-volume edition of the entire corpus of skaldic poetry. I am currently working on an edition of the poetry from Gunnlaugs saga for Volume V of the edition, as well as contributing to the 'quality control' of the volumes still to be published.