Fellow recognised by the British Academy

Monday 6 September 2021


The British Academy has awarded the 2021 Sir Israel Gollancz prize to the Gersum Project team: Professor Richard Dance (Fellow of St Catharine’s and Principal Investigator for the project), Dr Sara M. Pons-Sanz (Co-Investigator; Cardiff University) and Dr Brittany Schorn (Research Associate; ASNC Department at the University of Cambridge).

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the Gersum Project ran for four years (2016–20) and explored Scandinavian influences on English vocabulary by examining the origins of more than 900 words in a corpus of Middle English poems from the North of England. Scandinavian settlement began in earnest in the late ninth century, especially in the North and East of England, and probably its most enduring and significant effect was on the English language.

Accepting the prize on behalf of the project team, Professor Dance commented:

"I’d like to express our huge, heartfelt thanks to the British Academy for this fantastic honour. It’s a special privilege to receive a prize named to commemorate the scholarship of Sir Israel Gollancz, whose brilliant, ground-breaking work on Middle English alliterative verse we used every day in our quest into the rich and diverse vocabulary of these extraordinary poems.

“The Gersum Project has been a massive team effort, which has taken shape over many years, going right back to the late 1990s when I first started looking at the Scandinavian influence on the words of ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’. We would like to thank the AHRC for the enormous faith they showed in the project by funding us. We would like to say a gigantic thank you to all our wonderful colleagues in the School of English, Communication and Philosophy in Cardiff, and in the Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic Department and St Catharine’s College in Cambridge."

Professor Rana Mitter, Vice President for Public Engagement at the British Academy, explained:

“Each year, the British Academy awards a variety of prizes and medals to recognise excellence in its disciplines and celebrate the achievements of outstanding scholars across the humanities and social sciences. The Sir Israel Gollancz prize is awarded for work connected with Anglo-Saxon, Early English language and literature, English philology or the history of the English language.”

Watch the announcement video in full featuring Professors Mitter and Dance: