Agnieszka Mikołajczyk

Magister (MA) in Applied Linguistics (University of Warsaw),
MLitt in Mediaeval Studies with Distinction (University of St Andrews)

Thesis Title: Negotiating pasts and power in medieval Iceland: The dynamics of cultural memory and royal ideology in sagas and laws
Supervisor: Dr Alex Woolf


I hold an MA (magister) degree in Applied Linguistics from the University of Warsaw (2011), and an MLitt in Mediaeval Studies with Distinction, awarded by the University of St Andrews in 2014. I am now in my second year of full-time PhD studies in Mediaeval History.

Before embarking on my doctoral project in September 2015, I had worked as an official translator and interpreter of Polish, English and German.

In my MLitt dissertation, I examined the ideological complexity of royal power in the Old Norse sagas of two royal saints – St Óláfr of Norway and St Magnús of Orkney.
My PhD thesis research focuses on the dynamics of cultural memory and royal ideology of power in Icelandic kings’ and contemporary sagas and laws. More specifically, I intend to look at the ways in which, against the background of state formation process, Icelanders ‘negotiate’ the power of the kings of Norway and at the ways in which they ‘negotiate’ their own self-perception and position in the ideological debate on kingship as it emerges from the textual representations in extant laws, contemporary sagas and kings’ sagas. Adopting Mikhail Bakhtin’s approach, I argue for the polyphonic nature of the narrative discourse, which attests to the complexity of Icelanders’ self-definition and self-perception as a society on the periphery, yet with close links to the centre of Norgesveldet.

To supplement the ‘negotiation’ perspective, I’m employing the theoretical framework of cultural memory to look at how the past is used in the present and how it can be regarded as a manifestation of the Icelanders’ changing multi-faceted perception of the Norwegian monarchs. I argue for the validity of considering this complexity as a product of the dynamic, creative and interpretative nature of cultural memory.

My research is funded by the 7th Century PhD Studentship, awarded by the School of History, and the Gibson-Sykora Scholarship, awarded by the University of St Andrews.


  • “Negotiating memory and identity in mediaeval Iceland: ideological contrasts between the sagas of Magnús Óláfsson and Haraldr Sigurðarson in Morkinskinna and Heimskringla”, Borderlines XX Conference – Memory and Identity in the Medieval and Early Modern World, Trinity College Dublin (April 2016)
  • “One king to rule them all? Papal voice in the negotiation of royal authority in Iceland in Þórðar saga kakala and Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar”, Cambridge Colloquium in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic – Faith and Fabrication, University of Cambridge (February 2016)