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Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


Alessia Carrai

Photo of Alessia Carrai

College: Selwyn College


Supervisor: Prof Heather Webb

Research Topic: Parnassian imagery in Dante’s Commedia



Alessia studied for her BA at the University of Florence and then completed her MA at the University of Bologna, defending a thesis on the invocations to the Muses in Dante’s Commedia.

In 2017, she started her academic path at the University of Cambridge, funded by the Keith Sykes Postgraduate Research Scholarship. She obtained an MPhil in European, Latin American and Comparative Literatures and Cultures, with a dissertation titled ‘‘Infino a qui l’un giogo di Parnaso / assai mi fu’. A Problem of Reception and Interpretation in Dante’s Commedia’.

Since October 2018, she has been a PhD candidate in Italian at Selwyn College, funded by the Wolfson Postgraduate Scholarship in the Humanities.



Alessia specialises in medieval Italian literature and Dante studies. She is particularly interested in Dante’s relationship with his Latin sources and in the reception of classical texts during the Middle Ages.

Her PhD project centres on Dante’s reworking of myths and tropes connected to Parnassus in the Commedia, with a focus on the cantos of the Earthly Paradise. The approach that she proposes involves a careful analysis of medieval mythographers and commentaries on classical texts, in order to understand how Dante interpreted and reshaped Parnassian images in his poem. The aim of her research is to determine how this specific element of classical mythology played a role in Dante’s imagination, working as a model for the depiction of certain spaces in the Commedia but also fostering a series of reflections on the purpose of Dante’s poetry and its relationship with pagan texts.



Keith Sykes Postgraduate Research Scholarship [2017/2018]

Wolfson Postgraduate Scholarship in the Humanities [2018/2022]

Language Grant – Selwyn College [2020]



Supervisor for the first-year paper ITA3: Texts and Contexts

Supervisor for the second-year paper IT4: Autobiography and Self-Representation in Italian Culture (Topic 2: Medieval Selves: Dante and Petrarch)

Supervisor for the second-year paper IT5: Italian Identities: Place, Language, and Culture (Topic 1: Florence: Boccaccio’s Decameron)

Language Assistant for ITA1: Use of Italian


Conference papers

‘Muse e Pieridi: un percorso di riflessione metapoetica’, Congresso Dantesco Internazionale, Ravenna, 2017

‘Le Muse e le Pieridi: miti ovidiani e riflessione metapoetica nella Commedia’, Miti, figure, metamorfosi: l’Ovidio di Dante. Convegno internazionale nel bimillenario della morte di Ovidio, Firenze, 2017

‘‘Infino a qui l’un giogo di Parnaso / assai mi fu’: un problema di ricezione e interpretazione nella Commedia’, Congresso Dantesco Internazionale, Ravenna, 2019

‘Inspiration. Between Parnassus and the Earthly Paradise’, Italian Graduate Conference, Cambridge, 2019

‘Dante’s Reception of Classical Myths: Some Observations on the Two Peaks of Parnassus’, Society for Italian Studies Biennal Conference, Edinburgh, 2019

‘Temi e il Parnaso. Alcune riflessioni su poesia e profezia nel Paradiso Terrestre’, AlmaDante 2020, Bologna, 2020

‘Why Themis? Reflections on poetry and prophecy in Dante’s Earthly Paradise’, Italian Graduate Conference, Cambridge, 2020

‘‘che le Muse lattar più ch’altri mai’: la metafora del latte nella Commedia, tra ispirazione poetica e sapienza cristiana’, Congresso Dantesco Internazionale, Ravenna, 2021

‘The Nursing Metaphor Between Classical Poetry and Christian Wisdom in Dante’s Commedia’, Italian Graduate Conference, Cambridge, 2021

‘Edenic landscape and Parnassus: the Earthly Paradise as a physical and literary space’, A Centenary Celebration of New Voices in UK and Irish Dante Studies, Cambridge, 2021



‘Le Muse nelle invocazioni del Paradiso’, Lettere Italiane, LXX, (2018), 1, pp. 16-37

‘Le Muse e le Pieridi: miti ovidiani e riflessione metapoetica nella Commedia’, in Miti, figure, metamorfosi: l’Ovidio di Dante, edited by Carlotta Cattermole and Marcello Ciccuto (Florence: Le Lettere, 2019), pp. 187-205

‘Bacco e i due gioghi di Parnaso: per l’interpretazione di Par. I, 16-18’, L’Alighieri. Rassegna dantesca, LX, (2019), pp. 43-61


Other activities and roles

Co-organization of the Italian Graduate Seminars [2019/2021]