Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Wayne Erickson - Committee Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Calvin Thomas - Committee Member

Third Advisor

Dr. Paul Schmidt - Committee Member


In the Commedia of Dante, a poem 14,233 lines in length, some 7,500 words occur only once. These are the hapax. Fewer than 2% of these constitute a minute but distinct subset—the hapax for which there are one or more words in the poem whose spelling is identical but whose meaning is different. These are what I call same-spelling hapax. I identify four categories: part-of-speech, homograph, locus, and name. Analysis of the same-spelling hapax illuminates a poetic strategy continuously in use throughout the poem. This is to use the one-word overlap of Rhyme and line number. Not only is it highly probable that a same-spelling hapax will be a rhyme-word, but it is also probable that it will occupy a rhyme-word’s most significant position—the one place—the single word—where the two intertwined formal entities that shape each canto coincide. Every three lines, their tension-resolving this-word-only union intensifies the reader’s attention and understanding alike.