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Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


George Rayson

George Rayson
PhD Candidate
Faculty of Modern & Medieval Languages & Linguistics
Contact details: 

Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics
Raised Faculty Building
University of Cambridge
Sidgwick Avenue
United Kingdom


George completed his BA in English Literature at the University of York in 2018. It was there that, thanks to the department’s focus on ‘other’ literatures, that he first encountered the works of Dante. This then led to his finishing his ELAC MPhil here at Cambridge in 2020 with the dissertation, ‘Dante’s hapax legomena: the language of winemaking in Dante’s Commedia’. He intends to broaden this work in his PhD thesis, with the provisional title, ‘Dante’s rhyming hapax legomena in the Commedia’.

Teaching interests: 
  • Supervisor on IT4: Autobiography and Self-Representation in Italian Culture
  • C1: Translation out of Italian to English
  • Introduction to Italian Literature (English)
Recent research projects: 

George’s doctoral research is a study of the words which Dante uses only once in his great poem, the Commedia. George’s interest is in the work that these words do poetically, by dint of their very singularity. Because of their singularity, these hapax direct readerly attention and thus conjure particular affects, bring particular ideas and referents into relief, and serve as key vectors in Dante’s politics of language and politics through language in the poem.

George is also interested in the terza rima rhyme structure of the poem, specifically in the question of why so many hapax should be found in ‘rhyme position’ of their line. George has recently been investigating Dante’s use of hapax in codifying racial and religious difference in the Commedia. He also maintains a strong interest in ecopoetics and Anthropo-/Capitalo-cene studies, and how far Dante’s language in the Commedia establishes the non-human as ‘other’.


  • Cambridge UK Masters & Selwyn Sykes Scholarship (2019-2020)
  • Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP studentship (2020-2023)

Conference papers

  • ‘Dante’s hapax legomena: the language and labour of winemaking in Dante’s Commedia’, SIS Postgraduate Colloquium, 27/11/2020.
  • w/ Aistė Kiltinavičiūtė, ‘Purgatorio 15: Are You Drunk? Visionary Metapoetics,’ ‘Canto per Canto: Conversations with Dante in Our Time,’ New York University and the Dante Society of America, February 2021.
  • ‘Is the language of the Commedia surprising? The case of the hapax ‘stupendo’ (3.26.89)’, Dante’s Afterlives Conference, In Via Dante Network, 25/6/2021.
  • ‘La materialità dei singoli usi: hapax legomena in rima nella Commedia’, Congresso Dantesco Internazionale, Ravenna, 16/9/2021.
  • ‘‘Language always implies politics for the animal […] that man is’ (Elisa Brilli): Hapax legomena and Exclusion in Dante’s Commedia’, A Centenary Celebration of New Voices in UK and Irish Dante Studies, 12/11/2021.
  • w/ Frey Kalus, ‘Dante in the Anthropocene: Statius’ ‘spungo’ (2.25.56) as hybrid’, AAIS conference, Bologna, 31/5/2022.
Published works: 
  • ‘Dante’s Winemaking Hapax Legomena: Textual and Theological Labour in the Commedia’, Notes in Italian Studies, 1 (2021), pp. 16-21. 
  • Review of The Oxford Handbook of Dante, Medium Aevum 90.1 (2021), pp. 179-80.