Anja Gunderloch


Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

I welcome enquiries from prospective postgraduate students on seventeenth- to nineteenth-century Scottish Gaelic literary and cultural tradition and on the heroic ballads of Gaelic Scotland.

Personal profile


Dr Anja Gunderloch graduated with First Class Honours from this university in 1990 as the first student who took the then new degree in Scottish Ethnology and Celtic.  She followed this up with a PhD on The Cath Gabhra Family of Ballads: a Study in Textual Relationships in 1997.  After four years as a lecturer in the Department of Celtic at the University of Glasgow, she returned to Edinburgh to take up a lectureship in Celtic in 2001, since when she has been doing her best to introduce students to the wonders of Gaelic literature (and a little bit of grammar or metrics now and again, for variety).  When she needs to calm down after all the excitement of teaching and research, she knits.

Qualifications:  MA (Edinburgh), PhD (Edinburgh)

Research Interests

Anja’s main research interests lie in Scottish Gaelic poetry, mostly covering the period from the sixteenth century to the end of the First World War.  The genre of Gaelic heroic ballads, which was shared with Gaelic Ireland, forms a major aspect of her research.  Originating in the prestigious context of the Classical Gaelic language, the ballads formed a prestigious genre over centuries, and were much loved for their entertainment value once they had made the transition into vernacular Gaelic.  The main focus of Anja’s ballad research lies on the texts preserved in Gaelic Scotland and their development over time, although their Irish counterparts offer many opportunities for fruitful comparison.  The ballads, many of which feature Fionn mac Cumhaill and his companions as their protagonists, are complemented by prose narratives belonging to the same literary context.  As much of this material is unedited and only available in manuscript form, she does not expect to run out of exciting discoveries any time soon.  Another strand of her research looks into the compilers and collectors of such manuscript materials, and such investigation offers insights not only into the literary culture of the Gàidhealtachd but also the intellectual currents and conditions that stimulated the writing-down of songs and poems previously preserved in the oral tradition, especially in the eighteenth and nineteenth century.

Anja is also engaged in researching the work of Donnchadh Bàn Mac an t-Saoir, one of the famous Gaelic poets of the eighteenth century, whose work covers praise, love, humour, satire, and nature.  Donnchadh Bàn’s poetry contains both traditional and innovative elements and, in combination with his skill at detailed description and his ability to laugh at himself, this makes him a quite irresistible figure in the field of Gaelic literature.  A poet without much formal education, Donnchadh Bàn nevertheless saw three editions of his work published in his lifetime and his songs offer insights into how ‘oral’ and ‘literary’ aspects are intertwined in Gaelic poetry.  Two editions were published by subscription, and the lists of subscribers contain a great deal of previously unconsidered information about the many different individuals from all walks of life who bought Gaelic books at the turn of the nineteenth century.

In a rare foray into modern times, Anja has investigated the career and writings of Charles Loch, a learner of Gaelic who compiled a series of unpublished dictionaries;  she hopes to edit his other Gaelic writings at some point in the future.  The language and culture of the Isle of Man form another aspect of her research, including the development of literature in Manx and its relationship with Irish and Scottish Gaelic material.

  • Gaelic heroic ballads (with emphasis on Scotland)
  • The manuscripts of Gaelic Scotland
  • The poetry of Donnchadh Bàn Mac an t-Saoir
  • Oral and literary aspects of Gaelic poetry
  • Gaelic poetry from the fifteenth century to 1918
  • The Gaelic writings of Charles Loch
  • Language and culture of the Isle of Man 


Teaching and administrative duties

Teaching on CELT08004 Gaelic 1A, CELT08005 Gaelic 1B, CELT08006 Gaelic 2A, and CELT08007 Gaelic 2B

  • Contributor to CELT08014 Celtic Civilisation 1A and CELT08015 Celtic Civilisation 1B
  • Course Organiser for CELT08023 Songs, Swords, Rebels and Revivals:  Modern Celtic Literature in Translation
  • Honours Organiser (Celtic)
  • Convener of Staff-Student Liaison Committee (Celtic)
  • C&SS representative on LLC Impact Committee
  • Conference organiser:  Saoghal(an) Dhonnchaidh Bhàin – The World(s) of Donnchadh Bàn (July 2012)
  • Co-organiser:  Rannsachadh na Gàidhlig 8 (June 2014), Rannsachadh na Gàidhlig 10 (June 2018)
  • Postgraduate director, Celtic and Scottish Studies

Honours courses

Postgraduate Course

  • CELT11044 Fianaigheacht:  Tales, Ballads and Tradition

Research students

Postgraduate supervision or co-supervision: 


'Lip-vibrated Instruments in Early Gaelic Culture' (E. Holmes MacKinnon, 2023)

‘Women’s spiritual poetry in Gaelic literary tradition’ (A.M. MacLeod Hill, 2015)

‘The Musical World of Rob Donn MacKay’ (E.L. Beard, 2015)

‘Flann Mainistrech’ (E.P. Thanisch, 2015) 

‘“With heart and voice ever devoted to the cause”: Women in the Gaelic Movement, 1886–1914’ (P. Scott, 2014) 

‘The for identity in Sorley Maclean's “An Cuilithionn”:  journeying into politics and beyond’ (E.B. Dymock, 2008) 

‘Celts and Germans of the first century BC-second century AD:  an old question, a modern synthesis’ (C.J. O’Hara, 2005) 

MSc by Research:

'Literary Web Series:  Adaptation and Modernisation in New Media' (May Toudic, 2020)

‘Sacral Kingship in Ireland and Royal Inauguration Rituals’ (S. Ball, 2011) 

Na Bana-bhàird Spioradail’ (A.M. MacLeod Hill, 2011) 

An Ceòl sna h-Òrain:  Twelve Songs by Rob Donn MacKay’ (E.L. Beard, 2011)

‘Perspectives on the Use of Frame-Dialogue in Medieval Gaelic Literature’ (E.P. Thanisch, 2010) 

‘The Social Uses of the Fenian Cycle in Early Modern Scotland’ (J.D. Hearns, 2010) 

‘Reading between the Lines:  Perspectives on the Women Collectors of Gaelic Lore in the late Victorian and Edwardian Period (c. 1870-1920’ (P. Scott, 2008) 

‘Symbolism of Birds in the Fourth Branch of the Pedeir Keinc’ (A. Lacey, 2005) 

‘In the Shadow of the Heroic Mountain:  The Significance of Sorley MacLean’s Choice of Hero’ (E.B. Dymock, 2004)

Internal Examiner (PhD): 

'Nackian Narratives:  Storytelling and Ideology within Scotland’s Traveller Communities' (Robert Fell, 2022)

'From Fierabras to Stair Fortibrais:  A Comparative Analysis of the Chanson de Geste and its Adaptations in Ireland' (Emily Copeland, 2016)

'The evolution of Deirdriu in the Ulster cycle’ (K.L. Mathis, 2010) 

Eadar Dà Chànan:  Self-Translation, the Bilingual Edition and Modern Scottish Gaelic Poetry’ (C. Krause, 2007) 

‘The development of the Lewis House in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with particular emphasis on the Bragar Township’ (C. Mackie, 2005) 

‘The secular poetry of John MacLean, “Bárd Thighearna Chola”, “Am Bárd MacGilleain’ (R.D. Dunbar, 2006)

‘The Relic Lays:  a study of the development of Late Middle Gaelic Fianaigheacht’ (J.J.F. Flahive, 2004) 

External Examiner:

'The Gaelic Poet and the British Military Experience, 1756-1856' (Ruairidh Iain Maciver, University of Glasgow, 2018)



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