Centre for Creative and Critical Thought

The Centre for Creative and Critical Thought seeks to foster conversation, debate and reflection, and to provide a forum for innovation and experimental work in writing (especially fiction, poetry, criticism and non-fiction), teaching and the arts.

We host a number of events each year involving novelists, poets, playwrights, critics and other writers and artists. Recent visiting speakers include Grahame Allen, Geoffrey Bennington, Hélène Cixous, Josh Cohen, Rebecca Giggs, Gabriel Josipovici, Peggy Kamuf, Elissa Marder, Timothy Morton, Michael Naas, J.H. Prynne, Ali Smith, David Wills and Sarah Wood.

Teaching faculty at Sussex involved with the Centre include Peter Boxall, Nicholas Royle, Minoli Salgado, Sam Solomon, Bethan Stevens and Keston Sutherland. The Centre also has three honorary Fellows who give regular annual or biennial lectures and seminars: Hélène Cixous, Gabriel Josipovici and J.H. Prynne.

Based in the School of English, CCCT has developed out of longstanding research and teaching interests at Sussex (especially in Critical Theory) and is by its nature inter- and trans-disciplinary. We are particularly interested in creative and critical work that engages with contemporary concerns: social justice, the purpose of the university, the environment, and the possibilities of experiment and invention, innovation and transformation in teaching and writing.   

You might consider this phrase ‘centre for creative and critical thought’ quite a good definition of a university. In a sense you would not be wrong: CCCT aspires to be of interest and value to everyone in the university (and beyond it). In particular our activities are guided by a concern with such questions as: What is the university for? How does teaching, reading and writing in the university address issues of social justice, the environment, law and authority, ethics and aesthetics, humanism and anthropocentrism?

Play. In a period when universities are increasingly viewed as corporate machines, transnational institutions with rigorous agendas based on capitalist principles of marketisation etc, the notion of play becomes singularly endangered and, therefore, newly crucial. Without play, without freedom of speech and expression, without freedom of research, the university becomes a place of death. ‘Centre for Creative and Critical Thought’ is an odd and even misleading name in this context. If a centre involves (in Jacques Derrida’s words) ‘a fundamental immobility and a reassuring certitude, which itself is beyond the reach of play’, CCCT seeks to be something other. The Centre for Creative and Critical Thought is not, however, interested only in the margins or peripheries: it is rather, we hope, a place for radical play and critical transformation.

Faculty involved with the Centre are passionately concerned with the question of writing today. What is happening, in particular, to the novel, the short story and poetry? But what is happening, also, to critical discourse, especially the genres of the critical essay and academic monograph?

Peter Boxall’s published work on the nature of novel-writing and novel-reading is readily attested: he is the original English-language editor of the world bestseller, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006), as well as author of a series of groundbreaking studies of contemporary fiction: Don DeLillo: The Possibility of Fiction (2006), Since Beckett: Contemporary Writing in the Wake of Modernism (2011) and Twenty-First Century Fiction: A Critical Introduction (2013).

Nicholas Royle’s work includes the academic best-selling textbook An Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory (4th edition, 2009, co-written with Andrew Bennett), The Uncanny (2003) and Veering: A Theory of Literature (2011), as well as the critically acclaimed novel, Quilt (2010).

Bethan Stevens’s short fiction includes Vernet’s Dance Hall: Daily Mirror (2011), and Mostly Indoors (2009), and she has published articles on William Blake, Vanessa Bell, lost works of art, and on the literary qualities of historic newspapers; in both her critical and creative writing she is intrigued by links between literary and visual texts, and she’s working on a new critical-creative project on wood engraving with the British Museum.

Keston Sutherland has published many volumes of poetry, including the internationally renowned Hot White Andy (2007) and the Odes to TL61P (2013), as well as the critical study Stupefaction: A Radical Anatomy of Phantoms (2011). His poetry is widely available on You Tube and here on this website.

Besides readings, lectures, conversations and other events on campus throughout the year, CCCT is closely linked to the work of the journals Textual Practice (edited by Peter Boxall) and the Oxford Literary Review (co-edited by Nicholas Royle), together with small-press poetry publishing (including Barque Press, which Keston Sutherland co-edits with Andrea Brady at Queen Mary University of London).

Quick Fictions events (as well as the app Quick Fictions), the biennial First Fictions Festival and the annual Sussex Poetry Festival are also included in CCCT’s activities.