My name is Jan Alexander van Nahl, and I am a scholar specialized in medieval (Icelandic) literature and culture, the history of 20th-century (German) scholarship, and the digital humanities. This is my university blog where you can find up-to-date information on my academic activities. Scroll down for my most recent posts, have a look at the archives, or check out the categories above. Thanks for your interest!

(Medieval) Scandinavian Studies: Call for Papers

Abstracts welcome! (deadline for submitting an abstract is October 31st)

(Medieval) Scandinavian studies have been subject to cutbacks in recent years. This current state asks for individual assessment within different contexts. Old Norse literature, as one example, is a favorite among laymen, yet the employment of experts who make these sources available is more precarious than ever. Even more troublesome, Old Norse lore is regularly used as a source for allegedly age-old pagan customs, and populist groups as well as social media are quick to exploit connotations far from any scholarly state of knowledge. Specialists in Scandinavian studies face the challenge to counteract the misinterpretation of their objects of study, but they also have to deal with the apparent disinterest of (university) politics to maintain their expertise in times of sociopolitical challenges. This special issue seeks to bring together opinions on this complex status quo, including recent developments at certain universities or in certain countries, the role of individuals in shaping the field, the (mis)use of Old Norse sources in politics and society, adaptions in modern media, as well as ideas of the North in public perception.

More info here.

This peer-reviewed publication is free of charge! Please let me know in case you have any question!


As of July 1st 2021, I have been promoted to an associate professor/senior lecturer/dósent in medieval Icelandic literature at the University of Iceland.

International conference

I participate with a lecture on "Half-Remembering and Half-Forgetting – Teaching the (Medieval) Past Today" within "Session 2C: The democratic role of universities", Thursday, March 25th, 13.00–15.00.

New publication: "Náttvíg eru morðvíg. Dunkelheit und Nacht in der Egils saga Skallagrímssonar"

Available as open access here.

In: Res, Artes et Religio: Essays in Honour of Rudolf Simek. Edited by Sabine Heidi Walther, Regina Jucknies, Judith Meurer-Bongardt, Jens Eike Schnall, in collaboration with Brigitta Jaroschek, Sarah Onkels. Literature and Culture 1. Leeds: Kısmet Press, 2021. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Available at http://kismet.press/portfolio/res-artes-et-religio.

Funding of new research project

As of 2021, my new two-year research project "Night and Darkness in the Sagas of Icelanders" will be funded by the Rannsóknasjóður Háskóla Íslands with 1.4 million ÍSK (9.000 EUR).

My previous contributions:

    • "Náttvíg eru morðvíg". Dunkelheit und Nacht in der Egils saga Skallagrímssonar [Nighttime Manslaughter is Murder. Darkness in Night in Egils saga Skallagrímssonar]. In: Sabine Walther et al. (eds.), Res, Artes et Religio. Essays in Honour of Rudolf Simek. Leeds 2020, pp. 461–477.
    • „Dag né nótt" – Hlutverk myrkurs í Egils sögu Skalla-Grímssonar [Day nor Night – The Significance of Darkness in Egils saga Skalla-Grímssonar] (Hugvísindaþing 2019, Reykjavík).
    • "Die Nacht ist es, die alles werden lässt." Zur Rolle von Dunkelheit und Nacht in den Isländersagas [Night Gives Birth to Everything. On the role of Darkness and Night in the Sagas of Icelanders] (17. Internationale Saga-Konferenz, Reykjavík).


As of December 16th 2020, I have officially completed my habilitation at the University of Munich, and have received my venia legendi for the field of "Nordische Philologie" (Scandinavian Studies).

More infos on my habilitation thesis can be found here (German/English).

And some extra information for those interested: "Habilitation is a qualification required in order to conduct self-contained university teaching, and to obtain a professorship in many European countries. … Habilitation is the highest qualification issued through the process of a university examination, and remains a core concept of scholarly careers in these countries. … Once the habilitation thesis (Habilitationsschrift) and all other requirements are completed, the candidate "has habilitated him- or herself" and receives the degree Dr. habil. … A distinct procedure, but a formality after completing the habilitation, is officially receiving the venia legendi, Latin for "permission for lecturing" a specific academic subject at universities for a lifetime." (Wikipedia)