Prof Catherine Keen

Prof Catherine Keen

Professor of Dante Studies


Faculty of Arts & Humanities

Joined UCL
1st Sep 2005

Research summary

My research interests are focused on medieval Italy, especially the periods between 1200 and 1400. I am especially interested in exploring the relationships between poetic and political cultures in the cities of Italy during the Middle Ages and early Renaissance.

My research has concentrated especially on Dante, the subject of my monograph, Dante and the City (2003), and of numerous journal articles and contributions to scholarly volumes. In recent research I have been examining the early transmission history of Dante’s Vita nova in manuscript and in print, and exploring the work's themes of absence and mourning. This chimes with my interest in the lyric poetry of Italy, written in both Italian vernaculars and Occitan, in the Duecento and Trecento, particularly in the poets Cino da Pistoia and Petrarch. Another strand of my research examines Brunetto Latini, especially in his translation and/or mediation of classical Latin and vernacular French literary and rhetorical traditions into Florentine during the late Duecento.  

I welcome proposals for PhD research projects across a broad range of medieval Italian literary and cultural topics. I am happy to supervise work on Dante, covering the Commedia and the minor works, as well as Dante's intellectual formation and his experience of exile, and the history of Dante reception. Other areas include: the vernacular lyric from the Sicilians to Petrarch; the works of Brunetto Latini; medieval translation and reception of the classics (especially Cicero and Ovid); pilgrimage, exile, and other forms of mobility and displacement in medieval Italy.

Teaching summary

My undergraduate teaching covers the works of Dante and Petrarch in particular, from introductory to advanced level, in modules offered both in Italian, and in translation via the Comparative Literature pathway. I also teach themed modules on European poetic traditions, and on the literary and material transmission of medieval culture. At MA level I offer a further module on Dante's Commedia, and contribute to a number of other MA modules on themes relating to classical reception and comparatively on themes in medieval literature including place and space, and development of vernacular culture.

I have been first supervisor or co- supervisor to several PhDs on medieval and renaissance topics, with funding from the AHRC and the Wolfson Foundation, including:

  • Edward Allnutt (current student): Towards a Physiological Model of Dante's Comedy
  • Joseph Strasz (current student): Paths of Transmission: Political, Economic, and Cultural Exchanges in the Creation of Early Italian Literary Manuscripts
  • Dr Giulia Gaimari: The Concept of Justice in Dante's Works
  • Dr Sophie Fuller: Statius and the Commedia: an Analysis of the Importance of Statius's Epic Poetry to Dante's Commedia
  • Dr Alexandra Lee: Localising Collective Devotion: the Bianchi Devotions of 1399 at Lucca and Pistoia
  • Dr Ella Williams: Francophone Literature in Angevin Italy, 1265-1328


University of Leeds
Other Postgraduate qualification (including professional), Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education | 2001
University of Cambridge
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 1997
University of Cambridge
First Degree, Bachelor of Arts (Honours) | 1992


I completed my PhD on Dante at the University of Cambridge, and went on to hold a postdoctoral Junior Research Fellowship at St John's College, Cambridge. I subsequently worked in the Universities of Leeds and Bristol, before joining UCL.