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Dr Tristan Kay

Dr Tristan Kay

Dr Tristan Kay
BA (Leeds), MA (Leeds), DPhil (Oxford)

Senior Lecturer in Italian

Area of research

Medieval Italian culture

Office G111, 21 Woodland Rd
19 Woodland Road,
Clifton, Bristol BS8 1TE
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+44 (0) 117 928 7589


My research so far has focused predominantly on medieval Italian literary culture, especially Dante and early Italian lyric poetry. My first book, Dante’s Lyric Redemption: Eros, Salvation, Vernacular Tradition (Oxford University Press, 2016), re-evaluates Dante’s relationship to his vernacular lyric heritage and his commitment to eros as a redemptive force. I have also published a number of articles that examine from different perspectives Dante’s complex and evolving notion of desire, in relation to both medieval and classical literary cultures, and have co-edited the volumes Desire in Dante and the Middle Ages (2012) and Dante in Oxford: The Paget Toynbee Lectures (2011). 

I have a growing interest in Dante's modern reception. I have worked on the use of Dante in the writing of Primo Levi and Cesare Pavese, and am now working on a monograph project entitled 'The Poet and the Nation: Dante and the Idea of Italy'. As Italy today adopts a more nationalist brand of politics, this project explores the ways in which the figure of Dante has been used and exploited to construct and articulate different forms of Italian national identity since the process of unification in the nineteenth century. It examines how, through different phases of modern Italian history, cultural and political agents have appropriated and manipulated Dante's work to promote and legitimize their different visions of Italy. My monograph will explore the poet's place in the Risorgimento, under Fascism, in the modern Catholic Church, and in contemporary debates surrounding migration, Islam and Italian identity. I have recently been awarded a Fellowship by the Leverhulme Trust to support my work on this project from the start of 2020. 


Dante’s Lyric Redemption: Eros, Salvation, Vernacular Tradition (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2016)

Edited volumes:

Desire in Dante and the Middle Ages, ed. and with an introduction by M. Gragnolati, T. Kay, E. Lombardi and F. Southerden (Oxford: Legenda, 2012)

Dante in Oxford: The Paget Toynbee Lectures, ed. and with an introduction by T. Kay, M. McLaughlin and M. Zaccarello (Oxford: Legenda, 2011)


‘Dante Studies and the Transnational Turn’, in Transnational Italian Studies, ed. by C. Burdett, L. Polezzi, and M. Santello (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, forthcoming)

‘Politics’, in The Oxford Handbook to Dante, ed. by M. Gragnolati, E. Lombardi and F. Southerden (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming)

‘Dante’s Poetics of the Subhuman: A Reading of Inferno XXXII’, L’Alighieri, 54 (2019), 97-113

‘Vernacular Literature and Culture’, in The Cambridge Companion to Dante’s ‘Commedia’, ed. by Z. G. Baranski and S. Gilson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), pp. 140-57

‘Dante’s Ambivalence towards the Lustful’, in Dante and the Seven Deadly Sins, ed. by J. C. Barnes and D. O’Connell (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2017), pp. 271-302

‘17. Seductive Lies, Unpalatable Truths, Alter Egos’, in Cambridge Vertical Readings in Dante’s ‘Comedy’, ed. by G. Corbett and H. Webb, 3 vols (Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2016), pp. 127-49 [open access]

‘Dante’s Cavalcantian Relapse: The “Pargoletta” Sequence and the Commedia’, in New Voices in Dante Criticism, ed. by J. Luzzi. Special issue of Dante Studies, 131 (2013 issue; published 2014), 73-97

‘Desire, Subjectivity, and Lyric Poetry in Dante’s Convivio and Commedia’, in Desire in Dante and the Middle Ages, ed. by Gragnolati et al (Oxford: Legenda, 2012), pp. 164-84

‘Transforming Desire’ (with M. Gragnolati, E. Lombardi and F. Southerden), in Desire in Dante and the Middle Ages, ed. by Gragnolati et al (Oxford: Legenda, 2012), pp. 1-11

‘Dido, Aeneas, and the Evolution of Dante’s Poetics’, Dante Studies, 129 (2011), 135-60

‘”Una modesta Divina Commedia”: Dante as anti-model in Cesare Pavese’s La luna e i falò’, in Metamorphosing Dante: Appropriations, Manipulations and Rewritings in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries, edited by M. Gragnolati, F. Camilletti, and F. Lampart (Berlin and Vienna: Turia und Kant, 2011), pp. 101-22 [open access]

‘Redefining the “matera amorosa”: Dante’s Vita nova and Guittone’s (anti-)courtly “canzoniere”’, The Italianist, 29 (2009), 369-99 


I grew up in the North West of England and studied Italian and Spanish as an undergraduate at the University of Leeds (BA, 2005), where I remained to complete an MA by Research. In 2006 I began a doctorate at the University of Oxford, under the supervision of Manuele Gragnolati, writing a thesis on the relationship between eros, spirituality and vernacular language in Dante. Before coming to Bristol in 2012, I held a two-year Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at Dartmouth College, USA, where I taught courses on medieval and modern Italian culture. I have held the roles of Director of Teaching for the Department of Italian, and Admissions Tutor for the School of Modern Languages at Bristol, and I am the Treasurer of the UK-wide Society for Italian Studies


I currently teach on the following undergraduate units:

  • ITAL 10034: Medieval and Renaissance Italy
  • ITAL 20024: Dante: Inferno
  • ITAL 30049: Dante: Purgatorio and Paradiso
  • ITAL 30048: Desire in Medieval and Renaissance Culture
  • ITAL 30001: Translation into English
  • MODL30002: Ancients and Moderns: Cultures of Humanism in Renaissance Europe
  • MODL30020: The Italian City: Medieval and Early Modern Cultures

In 2015 I was shortlisted for the Students' Award for Outstanding Teaching in the Faculty of Arts. 

I have supervised four PhD students working on aspects of medieval Italian culture and welcome contact from prospective graduate students interested in working on topics related to my research.



  • Dante Studies
  • Medieval Studies



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