Professor Claire Honess

Professor Claire Honess

Dean of the Leeds Doctoral College

+44 (0)113 343 2808

Summary: Dean of the Leeds Doctoral College and Professor of Italian Studies, with a research focus on Dante and medieval Italian poetry, politics and theology.

Location: Leeds Doctoral College, Ziff Level 12

 Biography and current roles 

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I am Dean of the Leeds Doctoral College for the University, with overall academic oversight of all our research degrees across all eight faculties.  In this role, I report to the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation.  I chair the University's Graduate Board, and am a member of Senate.  I work closely with LUU on activities to help improve PGR representation and to enhance the PGR experience.  I am also concerned with improving PGR training, development, and careers advice in consultation with the relevant University authorities, including the Centre for Organisational Development and Professional Learning and the Careers Centre. 

Current and prospective postgraduate researchers can find information about our research degrees on the Leeds Doctoral College website

The Leeds Doctoral College exists to support and enhance the experience of postgraduate researchers across the University.  It organises daily drop-in sessions and regular events, and coordinates cross-University enhancement activities and opportunities for PGRs.  To find out more about what we have been doing since our launch in October 2017, read our newsletters, which can be downloaded here.

The Postgraduate Research and Operations website has relevant information for all current Leeds PGRs, including all the information you need about registration, Transfer, annual monitoring, using the Graduate Record of Achievement and Development (GRAD), examination, and graduation.

You can download my letter to all PGRs regarding the outcome of the EU referendum here.

You can follow the Leeds Doctoral College on Facebook and Twitter.

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I am also Professor of Italian Studies within the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies.  My primary research interest is in Dante studies, but I have also published on modern Italian literature and on the teaching of reading skills in Italian.  I teach medieval and modern Italian literature and translation into English. 

I graduated in 1989 with a degree in Italian and French from the University of Reading. I went on to do a PhD on the image of the city in Dante's writing, and Dante is still my main area of research interest.  My book, From Florence to the Heavenly City: The Poetry of Citizenship in Dante, appeared in 2006; I have a continuing interest in medieval political poetry and, in particular, in the way in which Dante uses political ideas and imagery.  I translated four of Dante's Latin letters on political themes and I have an on-going interest in Dante's epistolary output.  I am a co-investigator on the AHRC-funded project, Dante and Late-Medieval Florence: Theology in Poetry, Practice and Society, and a Co-Director of the Leeds Centre for Dante Studies. I have spoken about Dante on BBC Radio 4's 'In Our Time' and 'Great Lives' programmes.

I have also written on modern Italian authors, most notably Elio Vittorini, and I have taught modules on Primo Levi and on the literature of the city of Trieste.   I am an editor of the journal The Italianist and was Chair of the Society for Italian Studies in the UK and Ireland from 2015 to 2018.

I taught at the University of Reading and at Royal Holloway, University of London, before coming to Leeds in August 2003.

Teaching in 2017/18

 Level  Module

 Level 2

ITAL2023/2024: Introduction to Dante's Commedia

Elective (Level 2/3) ITAL3045: Introduction to Dante (in translation)

Research supervision

I am able to supervise candidates working on Dante and medieval Italian literature, the reception of Dante in twentieth-century Italian authors, and Primo Levi.  Current and previous research degrees supervised, include:

  • Tristan Kay (MA by Research): Dante and Occitan Poetry
  • Gemma Briggs (MA by Research & PhD): Metaphor in Primo Levi
  • Marianne O'Doherty (PhD): Images of India in the Medieval West
  • Kevin Marples (MA by Research and PhD): Dante's Virtuous Pagans; Dante and Prophecy
  • Abigail Rowson: Dante's Theologians
  • Serena Vandi: Dante and Gadda
  • Maddalena Moretti: Dante and Pasolini

Selected publications


  • From Florence to the Heavenly City: The Poetry of Citizenship in Dante (Oxford: Legenda, 2006)


  • Dante Alighieri, Four Political Letters, translated with an introduction and commentary by Claire E. Honess (Critical Texts, vol. 6) (London: MHRA, 2007)

Edited volumes

  • Reviewing Dante's Theology, ed. by C. E. Honess & M. Treherne, 2 vols (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2013)
  • 'Se mai continga...': Exile, Politics, and Theology in Dante, ed. by C. E. Honess and M. Treherne (Ravenna: Longo, 2013)
  • Dante in France, ed. by R. Goulbourne, C. E. Honess & M. Treherne (Pisa & Rome: Serra, 2013)
  • Donne delle minoranze: Le ebree e le protestanti d'Italia, ed. by C. E. Honess and V. R. Jones (Turin: Claudiana, 1999)

 Articles and Chapters

  • 'Communication and Participation in Dante's Commedia', in In amicizia: Essays in Honour of Giulio Lepschy, ed. by Z. G. Baranski and L. Pertile, Supplement to The Italianist, 17 (1997), 127-45
  • 'Feminine Virtues and Florentine Vices: Citizenship and Morality in Paradiso XV-XVII', in Dante and Government, ed. by J. R. Woodhouse (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), pp. 102-20
  • 'Dante and Political Poetry in the Vernacular', Journal of the Institute of Romance Studies, 6 (1998), 21-42; also in Dante and his Literary Precursors, edited by J. C. Barnes and J. Petrie (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2007), pp. 117-51
  • 'Learning to read: literary texts and ab initio students of Italian', in Prospettive sull'Italiano come lingua straniera, edited by A. L. Lepschy & A. R. Tamponi (Perugia: Guerra, 2005), pp. 161-64
  • 'Salus, venus, virtus: Poetry, politics and ethics from the De vulgari eloquentia to the Commedia', The Italianist, 27.ii (2007), 185-205 
  • ' “Ecce nunc tempus acceptabile”: Henry VII and Dante’s Ideal of Peace’, The Italianist, 33 (2013), 482-502
  • ‘The Language(s) of Civic Invective in Dante: Rhetoric, Satire and Politics’, Italian Studies, 68 (2013), 157-85
  • ‘Dante and the Theology of Politics’, in Reviewing Dante's Theology, ed. by C. E. Honess & M. Treherne, 2 vols (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2013), II, 157-85
  • ' “Ritornero poeta...”: Florence, Exile and Hope’, in 'Se mai continga...': Exile, Politics, and Theology in Dante, ed. by C. E. Honess and M. Treherne (Ravenna: Longo, 2013), pp. 87-105
  • ‘ “Vedi nostra città”: Dante, teologia e società’, in Le teologie di Dante, ed. by G. Ledda (Ravenna: Longo, 2015), pp. 59-80
  • ‘Divided City, Slavish Italy, Universal Empire: Inferno VI, Purgatorio  VI, Paradiso VI’, in Vertical Readings of Dante’s ‘Comedy’, ed. by G. Corbett & H. Webb (Cambridge: Open Book Publishing,  2016), pp. 119-42
  •  ‘Politics’ in The Cambridge Companion to Dante’s ‘Comedy’, edited by Z. G. Barański & S. Gilson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming)   

Other research activities

Leeds Centre for Dante Studies

Dante and Late Medieval Florence; Theology in Poetry, Practice and Society

The Italianist