In defence of Radical Inquiry in Comparative Literature, Translation and the Study of Language(s) – 1: Introduction


In defence of Radical Inquiry in Comparative Literature, Translation and the Study of Languages: an event in solidarity and support of our colleagues at Goldsmiths

Organised by members of the London Intercollegiate Network for Comparative Studies (LINKS) this event will celebrate and showcase the importance of teaching and research in Comparative Literature, Creative Writing and Languages inspired and underpinned by the critical and radical agendas in Arts and Humanities research at Goldsmiths. Speakers include: Lucia Boldrini (Goldsmiths), Ruth Cruickshank (RHUL), Rosa Mucignat (KCL), Timothy Mathews (UCL), Florian Mussgnug (UCL), Francesca Orsini (SOAS), Rachel Scott (RHUL).

Thus read the advertisement of the event organised and chaired, on behalf of LINKS, by Joseph Ford of the Institute of Modern Languages Research, on 13 June 2022, after a full academic year when staff at Goldsmiths were threatened with redundancy and comparative literature, translation and the study of language were especially targeted.

The Centre for Comparative Literature, the MA pathway in World Literature and Comparative Criticism, the two MA programmes in Sociocultural Linguistics and in Multilingualism, Linguistic and Education, and the MA in Translation are still very much alive and kicking. However, three staff members in the Department of English and Creative Writing (where the CCL and these MA programmes are located), as well as several members of the department of History and of the College’s professional staff, received notices of redundancy, and are, as we publish this, still fighting for their posts. Among these is Tamar Steinitz, member of LINKS and of its steering committee, as well as postcolonialist Mairi Neeves (who recently chaired one of our CCL events on Postcolonial ghost plays) and International Surrealism specialist Jacqueline Rattray.

The colleagues who spoke at the event have generously agreed to send us the written versions of their contributions to be published as a series of posts on our CCL blog. They will appear at brief intervals, starting tomorrow with Ruth Cruickshank’s presentation of the letter sent on behalf of LINKS to Goldsmiths’ Senior Management and Chair of Council. Next, “In Praise of Ignorance” is an updated re-run of my contribution to the roundtable at the LINKS MA Conference on “Comparative Literature: Beyond the Crisis” which took place at UCL in 2011. This is followed by Tim Mathews’ searching questions about what the institution calls its Mission and how it justifies its decisions, and then by Rosa Mucignat’s recollection of how LINKS started, from the bottom up, and of its collaborative non-hierarchical ethos. Francesca Orsini pays tribute to our colleague Tamar Steinitz and her work on multilingualism, reflecting on why this work is so important. Florian Mussgnug closes this series of posts with his thoughts on the crucial importance of pluralism in the Humanities and on the necessity of taking risks, of making oneself vulnerable through thinking differently, outside of the often too-rigid rigid structures of academia.

All of us at the CCL would like to express our warmest gratitude to the colleagues that came together to support us – those that spoke, all those that attended, asked questions, made suggestions, and expressed their solidarity. As I said at the event, I was moved more than words could say. I still am. Thank you.

Lucia Boldrini,
CCL Director, 14 July 2022.