skip to content


Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


Helena Phillips-Robins



Gonville and Caius



Dr Heather Webb

About me:

I completed my BA (Hons) in Modern and Medieval Languages at the University of Cambridge in 2012 and my MPhil in European Literature and Culture (specialism in medieval French and Italian) in 2013. My MPhil dissertation on secular song in Dante’s Commedia was awarded the British-Italian Society Rooke Memorial Prize (2013). I have also been a Visiting Graduate Scholar at the University of Notre Dame (2014) and an Erasmus Scholar at the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa (2010-11).

My research:

My PhD explores the role of song – the lived, embodied experience of word, music and movement – in Dante’s Commedia. I investigate the social, relational and theological functions of singing and song and the ways in which song creates and sustains interpersonal relationships, relationships which even include readers of the poem. I combine cultural historical investigation of thirteenth and fourteenth-century devotional musical practices and theoretical analysis from medieval and contemporary theology.


IT7: Dante and the culture of his age

IT5: Italian identities: Place, Language, and Culture

ITA3: Introduction to Italian 3: Texts and Contexts


‘Cantare i salmi nel Paradiso Terrestre di Dante’, in Alma Dante: Seminario dantesco 2015, ed. by Giuseppe Ledda (Bologna: Aspasia, 2017), forthcoming

‘‘Cantavan tutti insieme ad una voce’: Singing and Community in the Commedia’, Italian Studies, 71 (2016), 4-20

Entries in Tesoro della Lingua Italiana delle Origini, ed. by the Istituto Opera del Vocabolario Italiano (, 2016, forthcoming: ‘gignore’, ‘gottoso’, ‘intizzare’, ‘lavanda’, ‘gradinoso’, ‘innaspare’, ‘meschinità’, ‘molenda’, ‘molendaio’, ‘molendino’, ‘onocròtalo’, ‘ferruginoso’, ‘ferrugineo’, ‘ferrùgine’, ‘ferrugigno’, ‘fibbiaglio’, ‘fibbiaio’, ‘fibbiale’

Conference papers:

‘“[L]or compartire a me”: Singing for Dante in Purgatorio XXX-XXXI’, paper presented at the conference on Dante and Music,  University of Pennsylvania, USA, November 2015

‘Sung communities: Souls – and readers – singing in Purgatorio II’, paper presented at the Society for Italian Studies Biennial Conference, University of Oxford, UK, September 2015

‘Singing Psalm 30 in Purgatorio XXX’, paper presented at the Cambridge Italian Graduate Research Seminar, Pembroke College, University of Cambridge, UK, March 2014

‘Dante and Music: Te lucis ante terminum’, paper presented at the Performance: Arts-Critique-Experiment Convivium on Ekstasis, Robinson College, University of Cambridge, UK, July 2013

Other activities:

Member of Queens’ College Chapel Choir, Cambridge