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.


  • Whaley D. 'Skaldic Kennings'. In: J. McKinnell, ed. Pre-Christian Religions of the North: the Written Sources [tbc]. 2018. Submitted.
  • Whaley D. [Editions of poetry by:] Arnórr jarlaskáld Thórdarson; Gizurr svarti; Glúmr Geirason; Sigvatr Thórdarson; Skapti Thóroddsson; Thórálfr; Thórdr mauraskáld. In: Gade, KE with Marold, E, ed. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages: Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Turnhout: Brepols, 2017, pp.3-11, 192-3, 194-5, 347-50, 355-7, 467-9, 474-5.
  • Whaley D. 'A far-travelled word: Old Norse skeid 'racecourse, running track' in early literature and place-names. In: Jana Krüger, Vivian Busch et al, ed. Die Faszination des Verborgenen und seine Entschlüsselung. Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter, 2017, pp.379-409.
  • Whaley D. 'Lexical heritage in Northumberland: a toponymic field-walk'. In: Cambridge, E; Hawkes, J, ed. Crossing Boundaries: Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Art, Material Culture, Language & Literature of the Early Medieval World. Oxford & Philadelphia: Oxbow, 2017, pp.269-280.
  • Whaley D. The other millennium: English place-naming after the Norman Conquest. Journal of the English Place-Name Society 2014, 6-31.
  • Whaley D. Richard Jones and Sarah Semple (eds), Sense of Place in Anglo-Saxon England. Journal of the English Place-Name Society 2013, 45, 65-81.
  • Whaley DC, ed. Poetry from the Kings' Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2012.
  • Whaley DC. Scarborough Revisited. Nomina 2010, 33, 87-100.
  • Whaley D. Arnórr jarlaskáld Thórdarson. In: Gade, K.E, ed. Poetry from the Kings' Sagas 2: Part 1. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2009, pp.177-281.
  • Whaley D. Kormáks saga and the naming of Scarborough - a likely story?. In: Á Austrvega: The 14th International Saga Conference. 2009, Uppsala, Sweden: Gävle University Press.
  • Whaley D. Thjódólfr Arnórsson. In: Gade, K.E, ed. Poetry from the Kings' Sagas 2: Part 1. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2009, pp.57-176.
  • Whaley D. Watching for magpies in English place-names. In: Padel OJ; Parsons DN, ed. A Commodity of Good Names: Essays in Honour of Margaret Gelling. Donington: Shaun Tyas, 2008, pp.286-299.
  • Whaley D. Reconstructing skaldic encomia: Discourse features in Thjodolfr's 'Magnus verses'. In: Quinn, J; Heslop, K; Wills, T, ed. Learning and Understanding in the Old Norse World: Essays in Honour of Margaret Clunies Ross. Turnhout: Brepols, 2007, pp.75-101.
  • Whaley D. A dictionary of Lake District place-names. Nottingham: English Place-Name Society, 2006.
  • Whaley D. Skaldic flexibility: discourse features in eleventh-century encomia. In: The fantastic in Old Norse/Icelandic literature: 13th International Saga Conference. 2006, Durham and York: Durham Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.
  • Whaley D. Skaldic Poetry. In: McTurk, R, ed. Companion to Old Norse-Icelandic Literature and Culture. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005, pp.479-502.
  • Wills T, Whaley D, Gade K, Clunies Ross M, Marold E, Nordal G, Thorvaldsdottir VE, Heslop K. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages: Editors' Manual. Skaldic Project, 2005.
  • Whaley D. The Semantics of Stöng / Stang. In: Gammeltoft, P., Hough, C., Waugh, D, ed. Cultural Contacts in the North Atlantic Region: The Evidence of Names. Edinburgh, UK: NORNA, 2005, pp.244-67.
  • Whaley D. Arnórr jarlaskáld, earls' propagandist? On the techniques and social functions of skaldic eulogy. In: Waugh, D, ed. The Faces of Orkney: Stones, Skalds and Saints. Edinburgh, UK: Scottish Society for Northern Studies, 2003, pp.18-32.
  • Whaley D. Icelandic sagas. London, UK: The Literary Dictionary Company Limited, 2003. Available at:
  • Whaley D. Sagas of Icelanders [The Icelandic Family Sagas]. London: Literary Dictionary Company Limited, 2003. Available at:
  • Whaley D. The “Conversion Verses” in Hallfredar saga: Authentic voice of a reluctant Christian?. In: Clunies Ross, M, ed. Old Norse Myths, Literature and Society. Odense: University Press of Southern Denmark, 2003, pp.234-257.
  • Whaley D. Óláfsdrápur. In: Beck, H, ed. Hoops Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde, Band 22. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2002, pp.68-78.
  • Whaley, Diana. Sagas of warrior-poets. In: Diana Whaley ed. (ed.)Penguin Classics, London, 345pp 2002. Penguin, 345.
  • Whaley, Diana. Skaldic Project Editors' Manual (2nd Ed). Ross, M. Clunies; K. Gade, E. Marold, G. Nordal, T. Wills), 2nd ed., Sydney:Centre for Medieval Studies (<a data-url=""></a>), 106 pp 2002. .
  • Whaley D. Symposium on Skaldic Editing, Snorrastofa, Reykholt, Iceland, May, 2001. Skandinavistik 2002, 32(1), 19-24.
  • Whaley D. Symposium on Skaldic editing. Snorrastofa, Reykholt, Iceland, Friday 4th-Sunday 6th May, 2001. Skandinavistik 2002, 32(1), 19-24.
  • Whaley D. Snorri Sturluson: Heimskringla. In: Faulkes, A, ed. A New Introduction to Old Norse. London: Viking Society for Northern Research, 2001, pp.79-93.
  • Whaley D. The Art and Craft of the Skaldic Stanza. In: Faulkes, A, ed. A New Introduction to Old Norse. London: Viking Society for Northern Research, 2001, pp.94-98.
  • Whaley D. Trusmadoor and Other Cumbrian 'Pass' Words. Nomina 2001, 24, 77-95.
  • Whaley D. A useful past: historical writing in medieval Iceland. In: Clunies Ross, M, ed. Old Icelandic Literature and Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000, pp.161-202.
  • Whaley D. Myth and Religion in the Poetry of a Reluctant Convert. In: Old Norse Myths, Literature and Society: Proceedings of the 11th International Saga Conference. 2000, University of Sydney: Centre for Medieval Studie : University of Sydney.
  • Whaley DC. Norse-Icelandic Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages - A New Edition: Editors' Manual. (with M.Clunies Ross, K. Gade, E. Marold, G. Nordal) Sydney: Centre for Medieval Studies 2000.
  • Whaley D. Representations of Skalds in the Sagas 1: Social and Professional Relations. In: Poole, R, ed. Skaldsagas : Text, Vocation and Desire in the Icelandic Sagas of Poets. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2000, pp.285-308.
  • Whaley D. Heimskringla. Hoops Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde Band 14. Berlin: de Gruyter, 238-47 1999.
  • Whaley, Diana. Entries: '‘Jónas Hallgrímsson’, ‘Jóhann Sigurjónsson’, ‘Óláfr Thordarson’, ‘Rímur’, ‘Sigvatr Thordarson’, ‘Skaldic Poetry’, ‘Sæmundr Sigfússon’, ‘Völuspá’. In: Hutchinson Encyclopedia. Oxford: Helicon, 1998.
  • Whaley, Diana. Hallfredar saga. Hoops Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde Band 13. Berlin: de Gruyter, 427-31 1998.
  • Whaley, Diana. The Poetry of Arnórr jarlaskáld : An Edition and Study. Westfield Publications in Medieval Studies 8. Turnhout: Brepols. Pp. xvi + 369 1998.
  • Whaley, Diana. Entries: 'Beowulf', Canterbury Tales', 'Caxton, William', Chaucer, Geoffrey', 'Langland, William', Piers Plowman, 'Mystery Plays'. Oxford Companion to British History, ed. John Cannon. Oxford: OUP 1997.
  • Whaley, Diana. Review of: Terry Gunnell, The Origins of Drama in Scandinavia. (Cambridge, 1994), Speculum 72, 828-30 1997.
  • Whaley, Diana. Translations of Hallfredar saga and five tales. The Complete Sagas of Icelanders (5 vols) ed. Vidar Hreinsson. Reykjavík: Leifur Eiríksson 1997.
  • Whaley, Diana. Troublesome Poets at the Courts of Scandinavia. Sagas and the Norwegian Experience / Sagaene og Noreg. 10th International Saga Conference. Trondheim: Senter for middelalderstudier, 663-674 1997.
  • Whaley, Diana. Voices from the Past: a Note on Termagant and Herod. Shakespearian Continuities . Essays in honour of E.A.J. Honigman . Edited by John Batchelor, Tom Cain and Claire Lamont. Houndmills: Macmillan, 23-39 1997.
  • Whaley, Diana. Anglo-Scandinavian Problems in Cumbria, with Particular Reference to the Derwentwater Area. Nomina: Journal of the Society for Name Studies in Britain and Ireland, 19 91-113 1996.
  • Whaley, Diana. Miracles in the Sagas of Bishops: Icelandic Variations on an International Theme. Collegium Medievale: Interdisciplinary Journal of Medieval Research, 7, 155-184 1996.
  • Whaley, Diana. A medieval casebook: hand cures documented in the Icelandic sagas of bishops. Journal of Hand Surgery (British and European Volume) 19B 1994.
  • Whaley, Diana. Heroic Death in the Early Nordic World. Ritual and Remembrance: Responses to Death in Human Societies, ed. Jon Davies. Sheffield Academic Press, 165-85 1994.
  • Whaley, Diana. Articles: 'Arnórr Thórdarson jarlaskáld', 'Heimskringla', 'Skáld', 'Skaldic Meters', 'Snorri Sturluson', 'Sæmundr Sigfússon inn fródi'. Medieval Scandinavia: an Encyclopedia , ed. Phillip Pulsiano, New York and London: Garland 1993.
  • Whaley, Diana. Dupuytren's Disease: a Legacy of the North?. (with D. Elliot) Journal of Hand Surgery (British and European Volume) 18B, 363-67 1993.
  • Whaley, Diana. Nicknames and Narratives in the Sagas. Arkiv för nordisk filologi 108, 122-46 1993.
  • Whaley, Diana. Skalds and Situational Verses in Heimskringla. Snorri Sturluson: Kolloquium anlässlich der 750. Wiederkehr seines Todestages. ScriptOralia 51. Ed. Alois Wolf. Tübingen: Gunter Narr, 245-66 1993.
  • Whaley, Diana. The Kings' Sagas. Viking Revaluations: Proceedings of the Viking Society Centenary Symposium 14-15 May , ed. Anthony Faulkes and Richard Perkins. London: Viking Society for Northern Research, 43-64 1993.
  • Whaley DC. Heimskringla. London: Viking Society, 167pp 1991.
  • Whaley DC. Nowelis Flood and other Nowels'. Language usage and description. Studies presented to N. E. Osselton , ed. Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade and John Frankis. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 5-16 1991.
  • Whaley DC. The miracles of S. Olaf in Snorri Sturluson's Heimskringla. Proceedings of the Tenth Viking Congress, ed. James E. Knirk, Universitets Oldsaksamlings Skrifter, Ny Rekke nr. 9, Oslo, 325-42 1987.
  • Whaley DC. Heimskringla and its sources: the miracles of Oláfr helgi'. The Sixth International Saga Conference, 28/7 - 2/8/85, Workshop Papers, Helsingør: Det Arnamagnæanske institut, 1083-1103 1985.
  • Edwards, Diana C. Clause arrangement in the hrynhent poetry of the ninth to fourteenth centuries. Arkiv för nordisk filologi 99, 131-38 1984.
  • Edwards, Diana C. Clause arrangement in skaldic poetry. I. Clause arrangement in the dróttkvætt poetry of the ninth to fourteenth centuries; II Clause arrangement in the poetry of Arnórr jarlaskáld. Arkiv för nordisk filologi 98, 123-75 1983.
  • Edwards, Diana C. Christian and pagan references in eleventh-century Norse poetry. Saga-Book of the Viking Society XXI, 1-2, 34-53 1982.