The Centre for Comparative Literature (CCL) is located in the Department of English and Comparative Literature and constituted together with the Department of Theatre and Performance.
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Building on an established tradition of teaching and researching literary, visual, cultural and performance texts from all areas of the world and in many different languages, the CCL aims to foster innovative research in and on the theory, practice and history of comparative literature, world literature(s) and theatre, reception of the classics, multilingualism and translation, intercultural theatre, and creative writing.
Our ethos and outlook are perhaps best explained by our Centre’s main image. It is based on Domenico di Michelino’s famous fifteenth-century painting of Dante holding the Commedia, with Paradise above him, Purgatory behind, Hell to one side and Florence to the other.
While Mount Purgatory is replaced by Bruegel the Elder’s sixteenth-century Tower of Babel, Dante – declared by Ruskin to be “the central man of all the universe” – is displaced, at the centre of the image, by the Guadeloupian writer Maryse Condé, whom we thank warmly for providing us with her photograph and authorization to edit it.
The ancient African seat of learning of Timbuktu (which figures in Maryse Conde’s novel Ségou) takes the place of Florence; the devil from Michelino’s painting is now burning books, evoking not only the recent burning of some of Timbuktu’s precious manuscripts, but also the many historical attempts to destroy culture and erase memory.
The arid landscape of Michelino or the cultivated fields of Bruegel give way to the Bengali mangroves of the Sundarbans (echoing Maryse Condé’s Crossing the Mangroves), a recurrent literary setting (they appear for example in Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children and Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide), and a delicate ecosystem threatened by climate change and encroaching human action.
The recognition and displacing of canons; concern with gender, race, religious and spiritual symbolism; radicalisation, material acquisition, environmental crisis, multilingualism and the necessity of translation are, as our image shows, some of the main concerns that animate us as we seek to provide a research and teaching environment devoted to the study of literary, artistic, critical and cultural phenomena that traverse, challenge, or work programmatically across national, ethnocentric, and monolingual canons and practices.
Our collaborations and events
We work together with other Centres at Goldsmiths – not least, the Caribbean and Diaspora Studies Centre; the Decadence Research Centre; the Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought; the Writers’ Centre – as well as with theatres (including our partnership with the Gate Theatre), cultural centres, publishers, translators, professional associations and academic networks in the UK and abroad. Our Research and Collaborations page lists some of these, along with our main projects.
The CCL participates in and supports Goldsmiths’ Learn a Language programme.
Details of our Annual Lecture series, seminars, workshops and conferences appear in the Events page.
Students and visitors
Our MA and MPhil/PhD programmes in literary studies, comparative literature, world theatre, and more can be found in the Study With Us page of the Department of English & Creative Writing and the Programmes page of Theatre and Performance.
We warmly welcome applications to our master’s and research degrees from suitably qualified graduates.
We equally welcome applications from research students who wish to spend a shorter period of study at the CCL, and from visiting academics who wish to be located at the Centre for between a term and a year under our Academic Visitor Scheme.
Anyone interested in participating in our work, in proposing collaborations with the CCL, or wishing to spend a period of time at the Centre, can contact the Centre Director, Professor Lucia Boldrini at l.boldrini (@gold.ac.uk).