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Gailann Peake

Research Postgraduate

Research Postgraduate in the Department of English Studies


Gailann Riven Peake grew up in Hampshire on the south coast of England, and prior to starting her PhD at Durham took a rather unconventional route into academia, beginning her career first as a drummer in a rock band, then as an artist specialising in fine art portraiture and impressionism. A change of direction led to a BA (Hons) degree in Business Management at the University of Wales, and a postgrad in Risk, Crisis and Disaster Management at the University of Leicester, focusing on ethics and global disasters.

She completed her MLitt in Viking Studies at the University of the Highlands & Islands where her dissertation earned her a Distinction. Her thesis examined how Viking Age history, culture, and literature has impacted the development of modern music, with her research identifying what she termed “the generational delay of influence” (the effect of music on individual adolescent development), and subsequently won the award at the Institute of Northern Studies for Best Dissertation.

Her doctoral thesis at Durham, entitled The Viking Sexual World: A Somatology of a Prolonged Cultural Civilisation, is an interdisciplinary study of medieval sexual behaviours as depicted in literary and historical texts, from Old Norse society during the Viking Age period, through to subsequent contemporary cultural reimaginings today. Her research is supervised by Dr David Ashurst in the English Studies Department.

Whilst studying for her PhD at Durham, Gailann has also taught both Old Norse and Old English medieval literature on the Epic and the Literature of Legend module in the Department of English Studies, in addition to also working as an Academic Fellow in Durham University’s Centre for Academic Development (DCAD) teaching Business and Management on the modules Advance Scholarship in Higher Education and Scholarship in Higher Education. She is a great advocate of online and blended/hybrid teaching in the virtual learning environment and is an experienced online tutor.

When not working she is a published poet and author, recently publishing her first novel (literary fiction) within the psychological horror genre, winning The Highland Society of London Literary Award. In addition, she also recently wrote and presented her first short film focusing on Viking geographies and food.

Research and Areas of Interest
  • Viking Age culture and sexuality 
  • Music and medieval literature inter-relationships
  • Online/hybrid teaching and English for Academic Learning 
  • Business management and the history of women in Scottish industry

Tutor in English Literature, Durham University: Epic and the Literature of Legend module.

Academic Fellow (Teaching), Durham University Centre for Academic Development (DCAD).

Tutor in Business and Management: Advanced Scholarship in Higher Education & Scholarship in Higher Education, in DCAD, Durham University.

Research Projects

Thesis: The Viking Sexual World: A Literary Somatology oa Prolonged Cultural Stimulus. 

Member of the Eat Medieval research collaboration team (between Durham University’s Department of History & IMEMS, 2021). 

Thesis: Thor’s Metal Hammer: How Medieval Literature Has Influenced the Growth of Heavy Metal Music and the Birth of Viking Metal. 

Indicators of Esteem

The Highland Society of London Writing Award 2018.

The Institute of Northern Studies prize for Best Dissertation 2019.

Publications, Conferences, and Film

Chapter in the forthcoming book Island Histories and Herstories - The North Atlantic World (Brepols, 2023), entitled Drams and Dames: The History of Women in Shaping and Developing the Highland and Island Scotch Whisky Industry.

Film: Wrote and presented the short film A Literary Feast: Vikings, Sagas, and Food for Fast & Feast’ (2021). 

Conference paper: Drams and Dames – How Women Have Shaped and Developed the Highland & Island Scotch Whisky Industry, the 5th International St. Magnus Conference: ‘Histories and Herstories’, Shetland, UK, 14th-16th April 2021. 

Affiliations and Memberships

Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (AFHEA)

The Scottish Society for Northern Studies.

The Viking Society for Northern Research. 

The Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS).

The Institute of Hazard, Risk, and Resilience (IHRR).