In defence of Radical Inquiry in Comparative Literature, Translation and the Study of Language(s) – 2: A Letter

We are delighted to publish Ruth Cruickshank’s contribution to the LINKS event that took place on 13 June 2022.  A description of the occasion can be found here. Further related posts will be published over the next few days.

In Defence of Radical Inquiry in Comparative Literature, Translation and the Study of Language

Supplementing the upcoming posts of my LINKS colleagues, I am sharing a copy of the letter bearing witness to, celebrating and defending the work of our colleagues at Goldsmiths: ‘In Defence of Radical Inquiry in Comparative Literature, Translation and the Study of Language’.

This was read and discussed at the event organised by Dr Joseph Ford of the IMLR on behalf of LINKS (London Intercollegiate Network for Comparative Studies). It was subsequently signed by more than 40 LINKS collective members and colleagues from across the Comparative Literature community, and sent to Dinah Caine (Chair of Council); Frances Corner (Warden); Elisabeth Hill (Deputy Warden and Pro-Warden Academic); David Oswell, (Pro-Warden for Research and Enterprise); Jilly Court (Registrar and Secretary). Demonstrating our solidarity, we copied in Stephen Graham, Head of the School of Arts and Humanities and Jane Desmarais (Head of the Department of English and Creative Writing).


14 June 2022

As we dedicate our 13 June 2022 event ‘In Defence of Radical Inquiry in Comparative Literature, Translation and the Study of Language’ to support our colleagues and students of Comparative Literature, Linguistics and Translation at Goldsmiths, we, members of the LINKS collective (London Intercollegiate Network for Comparative Studies), write to reiterate our ongoing concern about proposed cuts to posts in English and Creative Writing at Goldsmiths. Our speakers and discussions are inspired and underpinned by the long-running and ongoing critical and radical agendas in Arts and Humanities research at Goldsmiths. The excellence and importance of the work of our colleagues at Goldsmiths reminds us that Goldsmiths was the first College of the University of London to introduce a BA degree in Comparative Literature; boasts the internationally successful research Centre for Comparative Literature; and is held in international esteem for the vibrancy of the research and teaching in Comparative and World Literatures, Critical Theory, Linguistics, Languages, Translation and Creative Writing.

As LINKS celebrates, supports and defends them, we are also particularly mindful of how the expertise, energy and ethics of our colleagues at Goldsmiths have been fundamental to the founding, growth, and ongoing development of LINKS. Our reach is from London to the global community of scholars and students whose work spans Comparative and World Literatures, Translation, Linguistics and Languages. It was from Goldsmiths, Kings and UCL that idea for LINKS came in 2010. Instead of perpetuating patterns of institutional competition, a dynamic network has been created. LINKS brings together MA students, postgraduate researchers and scholars from departments where Comparative Literature is studied and researched, not as competitors, but to explore together the evolving fields of Comparative and World Literature. This collective is founded on an ethos of collaboration outside the rhetoric of markets or hierarchies, and to promote instead the values of questioning, inclusion and exploration.  These actively pursued values chime resonantly with the radical inquiry and intersectional progressive political agendas of the research, engagement and teaching work of colleagues at Goldsmiths.

Fuelled significantly by the energy of colleagues from Goldsmiths, LINKS has grown in strength, proactively inviting SOAS, Birkbeck and Royal Holloway to join. Together, we co-organise seminars, panels and roundtables, open to all. We invite speakers from across the field – and the world. Participants range from international figures such as Haun Saussy and César Domínguez and colleagues involved in the network to emerging postgraduate talents, bringing new, interdisciplinary approaches to the fore.

Just ten years ago, the third LINKS MA conference was hosted by Goldsmiths, proactively interrogating the politically critical potential of ‘Comparative Literature in a Fast-Changing Global World’. LINKS co-founder, Goldsmiths’ Lucia Boldrini has played a key role in developing such LINKS MA conferences. These are non-hierarchical spaces whereby colleagues support PhD students to curate a conference of MA speakers from across the University of London and foster discussion and re-thinking of intercultural ‘links’, by approaching literary and non-literary texts comparatively. Students and staff from across the University of London join force providing MA students with a unique opportunity to exchange ideas, and develop their networking, presentation and discussion skills. A further highlight of these conferences is another highlight of LINKS MA conferences are the round tables, which bring together a vast range of scholarly expertise. It is characteristic of Lucia’s intellectual generosity and the breadth of her research interests, spanning Heterobiography; Comparative and World Literatures; Joyce, Dante and Modernist Medievalism; and Mediterranean imaginaries that she is always at the table for round tables, including those ranging over topics such as ‘Identity and Otherness in Comparative Literature’; ‘Literary Cosmopolitanism’; and ‘Inside/Outside Comparative Questions’. And, just ten years ago, Lucia Boldrini and Goldsmiths colleague Carole Sweeney led a roundtable reflecting on the challenges of comparative literature in the global world: the challenges it faces, and, crucially, the challenges world and comparative literary scholarship and teaching continue to pose.

From our many LINKS events, we remember Carole Sweeney drawing on her expertise on political contexts of gender, race and class in contemporary writing for a brilliant timely and wide-ranging panel, ‘Outrage: Offensive and Offended Sentiments, from Libertinage and Colonial Calcutta to 21st-century France’. Tamar Steinitz has also deftly helped steer LINKS, and her work on translingual identities, multilingualism, literatures of the Middle East and diasporic Jewish identity and the politics of translation is more urgent than ever. We are continually struck by the engagement and potential of the students from Goldsmiths who attend our events and contribute so valuably to them, and fear how adversely proposed cuts would affect them.

Like our colleagues at Goldsmiths and as our research evolves in response to – and ahead of new challenges: neoliberal, postcolonial, supranational and climate catastrophic – the collective endeavour of LINKS continues to develop. In 2020, LINKS entered a new collaboration with the IMLR. These online events have expanded our reach yet further, with a two-year series of ‘Seminars in World Literature and Translation: Beyond Multilingualism’, exploring some of the latest developments in our growing fields. These have brought together international attendees and speakers to engage in critical explorations of the roles of Comparative and World Literatures in questions of translating environmental threats; museum cultures; theoretical resistance; postcolonial experiences; and indigeneity. After a hiatus of in-person gatherings, we look forward to taking up Lucia and the team’s characteristically proactive invitation to work with Goldsmiths’ students to resume our LINKS MA Conferences at the Centre for Comparative Literature in 2023.

Such ongoing engagement in urgent contemporary questions reflects and underscores the importance of the work of our Goldsmiths colleagues. As a collective which works non-competitively to examine critical value, we urge you to ensure that the intersectional progressive political agendas of the engagement and teaching of colleagues at Goldsmiths may continue to provide the space for radical inquiry to which we bear witness today.