Dr Tristan J Kay

BA (Leeds), MA (Leeds), DPhil (Oxford)

  • BS8 1TE

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Personal profile

Research interests

I specialize in the literature and culture of the Italian Middle Ages, particularly the work of Dante, and its resonance in the modern world.

My first book and several of my early articles focused on Dante’s conception of love and his sophisticated dialogue with other medieval vernacular writers. My monograph, Dante’s Lyric Redemption: Eros, Salvation, Vernacular Tradition, was published by Oxford University Press in 2016. The book provides a re-evaluation of Dante’s relationship to his vernacular lyric heritage (both Italian and Occitan) and highlights his commitment to eros as a redemptive force. In addition, I have 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. I am also interested in Dante and medieval political culture, and wrote the chapter on 'Politics' in the 2021 Oxford Handbook of Dante. I have contributed to other important recent publications and collaborations in the field, such as the Cambridge Companion to Dante's 'Commedia'Vertical Readings in Dante's 'Commedia'; and Dante's 'Vita Nova': A Collaborative Reading, and am the co-editor of two books on the poet. 

While I have continued to research and publish on Dante and medieval culture, I have a growing interest in the poet’s modern reception and especially his status as a political icon. In 2020 I received a Leverhulme Research Fellowship to support work on a second major book project, ‘The Poet and the Nation: Dante and the Idea of Italy’. As Italy today adopts a more nationalist brand of politics, my 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. 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 the nation. My project interrogates this longstanding ‘national’ appropriation of Dante, with a particular focus on the centenary celebrations of May 1865; the cult of Dante under fascism; and the poet's place in contemporary political discourse. In so doing, the project offers a broader meditation upon the problems associated with viewing Dante (and medieval culture more broadly) through a national lens, and upon the potency and persistence of this image of the poet. Away from the monograph itself, which remains in progress, my recent work in the field of Dante reception includes essays on Dante and ideas of transnationalism; the public commemoration of Dante in the centenaries of 1865 and 2021; and a major article on the use of Dante as an expressive model in the Holocaust writing of Primo Levi. Details of these and other publications can be found below. 

I am always interested to hear from prospective research students and postdoctoral researchers who are interested in working on projects related to my areas of expertise. I have co-supervised four PhD projects through to completion during my time at Bristol. 


Dante’s Lyric Redemption: Eros, Salvation, Vernacular Tradition (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2016) (https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198753964.001.0001)

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) (https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315094946)

Dante in Oxford: The Paget Toynbee Lectures, ed. and with an introduction by T. Kay, M. McLaughlin and M. Zaccarello (Oxford: Legenda, 2011) (https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315095141)

Selected Essays: 

‘“Dante e l’Italia sono la stessa cosa”: Poet and Nation in the Centenary Years of 1865 and 2021’, Bibliotheca Dantesca: Journal of Dante Studies, 6 (forthcoming 2023)

Vita nova XIX–XXIV [10.12–15.11]: A New and More Noble Theme’, in Dante’s ‘Vita nova’: A Collaborative Reading, ed. by Z. G. Barański and H. Webb (Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press, in press 2023), pp. 157-69 (Dante's "Vita Nova" (nd.edu))

'Primo Levi, Dante, and Language in Auschwitz', Modern Language Review, 117.1 (2022), 67-100 (https://doi.org/10.1353/mlr.2022.0003)

'Politics', in The Oxford Handbook of Dante, ed. by Manuele Gragnolati, Elena Lombardi and Francesca Southerden (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021), pp. 270-86 (https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198820741.013.22)

'Dante and the Transnational Turn', in Transnational Italian Studies, ed. by Charles Burdett, Loredana Polezzi, and Marco Santello (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2020), pp. 291-307 (https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv2tjdgsp.20)

‘Dante’s Poetics of the Subhuman: A Reading of Inferno XXXII’, L’Alighieri: Rassegna dantesca, 54 (2019), 99-115 (digital.casalini.it/10.1400/278340)

‘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 (https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108367769.012)

‘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 (available on academia.edu)

‘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 (https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0100.07)

‘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 (https://www.jstor.org/stable/43490491)

‘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 (available on academia.edu)

‘Dido, Aeneas, and the Evolution of Dante’s Poetics’, Dante Studies, 129 (2011), 135-60 (https://www.jstor.org/stable/23390450)

‘”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 (https://doi.org/10.25620/ci-02_07)

‘Redefining the “matera amorosa”: Dante’s Vita nova and Guittone’s (anti-)courtly “canzoniere”’, The Italianist, 29 (2009), 369-99 (https://doi.org/10.1179/026143409X12584559181732)

Structured keywords and research groupings

  • Centre for Medieval Studies


  • Dante
  • Lyric
  • Reception
  • Politics
  • Nationalism
  • Transnationalism
  • Medieval studies
  • Italian studies

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or