The Rough Side of Independent Scholarship & The Write Way

As my tagline reads, I am a librarian, an avid reader, and a book fiend. I am also an independent PhD scholar at Ghent University, Belgium. It is challenging to combine both work and studies, as my previous blog post has shown. After hitting a low point last June, I felt discouraged and defeated. How do you write when your world has been turned upside down by a personal crisis (my own), a serious health issue (that of my beloved partner) or some other hardship?

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The mad life of an independent scholar: The sequel

I only made one simple New Year’s resolution in 2017: finish my PhD-thesis. I spent the next year trying to finish my thesis, but failed miserably. This past week, after a long dry spell of writing, I added one single sentence to my thesis. Now I feel a little reluctant to make the same resolution for 2018. As a by now drained, exhausted and self-doubting independent scholar, should I refrain from making any resolutions?


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Young Aud

Young Aud the Deep-Minded is introduced in the fifth episode of season five of Vikings, “The Prisoner” and starts to feature more prominently in the two following episodes, “The Message” and “Full Moon.” (WARNING: this post contains spoilers for episodes 5 to 7 of season 5 of Vikings!)

Young Aud the Deep-Minded. (Vikings, 5.5 “The Prisoner”)

Aud resides in Kattegat together with her father, Ketill Flatnose, when he decides to join Floki to settle in the newly discovered land of the Gods – Iceland. In this series, she is portrayed as a young, well-spoken woman, whereas in the literature she is a much older woman who is a source of sound counsel. But that is not the only discrepancy between the TV series’ account and what the texts actually say.

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Awesome Medieval Nordic Women

A recent article on “A female Viking warrior confirmed by genomics” set off a storm of controversy among Medieval Nordic scholars. In the midst of this storm, the Symposium “Gender and Sexuality during the Nordic Middle Ages,” organized by the Nordic research network Medieval Gender History, was held from 15th to 17th September in Stockholm, Sweden. Being bombarded with questions relating to the discovery of a female Viking warrior, the symposium was the calm in the storm for its participants — a meeting of equal minds … a meeting of awesome (wo)men on awesome medieval Nordic women.

Olaus Magnus Historia om de nordiska folken
“On Viking Expeditions of Highborn Maids” (Book 5, Ch. 27) in Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus by Olaus Magnus (1555).

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The Write Place

Thank you so much for your email! Unfortunately, I’m out of the office writing on my thesis on a deserted island until Wednesday, August 30th. If you need me, try sending me a message in a bottle. […]

Kind regards,

Sofie Vanherpen

This is my “out-of-office” reply. If you happen to send me an email when I am working and writing on my PhD-project, then this is the message you’ll receive. And no, I am not actually residing on a deserted island, nor am I in Denmark, in Iceland or some other remote spot. With my modest income and being an independent scholar, withdrawing in a quiet and secluded place where I can write is something I can only dream of. My “island” is actually just a desk in the living room buried beneath books and paper towers.


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Viking women here, Viking women there … Viking women everywhere!*

Last week I attended the 18th Viking Congress, which took place in Denmark alternating between Copenhagen and Ribe. During the congress, we were fortunate enough to visit a number of places that were connected with Vikings. We travelled around Denmark, taking in the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, the Viking Fortress at Trelleborg, the home of the Viking Kings at Jelling, the Viking Center and the Viking Museum in Ribe, and we even ventured across the border to Germany to visit the Viking Museum Haithabu, also known as Hedeby. A central part of the museums’ exhibitions are the strong Viking Age women. In each of these places, reenactors brought to life what was happening in and around these locations during the Viking Age. Numerous Viking female reenactors give new voices to these strong female characters from history and literature. Continue reading