Sussex Centre for Language Studies

Seminar series

SCLS runs several strands of open seminars; all welcome.

Language and Culture

The Sussex Centre for Language Studies organises events in the Language Learning Centre, Arts A, twice a term. Invited speakers on a wide range of topics set language in its wider context and respond to questions from the floor. Events are free, open to all. 

Writing as Promise in Dante, Proust, and Barthes

Dr Jennifer Rushworth (UCL)
Thursday 18 February 2021, 5-6pm online

In a lecture of autumn 1978, Roland Barthes explicitly drew a comparison between the medieval Italian poet Dante Alighieri and the early twentieth-century novelist Marcel Proust, on the grounds of writing having its origin in mourning. Barthes went on to insert himself into the comparison, explaining how he, too, wanted to turn to writing a novel with the Dantean title Vita Nova in the aftermath of the death of his mother. In this paper, I follow Barthes’s own triangulation of authors, but shift the focus from incipits and from the start of writing as rooted in grief to the end of writing as a promise of future writing. In this emphasis on writing as promise, I consider the end of Dante’s Vita nova and Barthes’s anticipatory delineation of his own Vita Nova, as well as the promise of art in Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu. While I draw on the theories of promise of Shoshana Felman and Jacques Derrida, I also recognize promises as utopian, and turn in the end to queer theory — in particular, the debate about futurity between Lee Edelman and José Esteban Muñoz — in order to assess the effectiveness of writing as promise.

This talk will be in English. All welcome. 

Jennifer Rushworth is Associate Professor of French and Comparative Literature at UCL. She is the author of two books, Discourses of Mourning in Dante, Petrarch, and Proust (2016) and Petrarch and the Literary Culture of Nineteenth-Century France (2017). Her research interests include mourning, medievalism, and music. She is currently working on two projects, one on Proust and song and the other on Roland Barthes's reading of Dante.

For further information please contact Ambra Moroncini.

The Spring Term SCLS Language and Culture Series events are: 

  • Dr. Jennifer Rushworth (UCL): ‘Writing as Promise in Dante, Proust, and Barthes’, Thursday 18 February 2021, 5.00 pm GMT.
  • Prof. Paul Betts (University of Oxford): Ruin and Renewal. Civilizing Europe After the Second World War - Book presentation and discussion, with Dr Gerhard Wolf (University of Sussex) and Dr Ambra Moroncini (University of Sussex), Thursday 25 March 2021, 5.00 pm GMT.

Both talks will be held online via Zoom. To book and receive a link please contact


  • Past speakers include:
    • Prof Nicholas Till (Sussex), Early Opera and Early Modernity
    • Dr Aaron Kahn (Sussex), Positively Disruptive: Female Characters Breaking the Mould in the Works of Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616)
    • Professor Lino Pertile (Harvard) and Professor Brian Cummings (York), On Ulysses: Homer, Dante, Joyce
    • Dr Ambra Moroncini and Prof Darrow Schecter (Sussex), Resistance in Italian Culture from Dante to the 21st Century
    • Feras Alkabani (Sussex), Orientalism and Sexuality: Sir Richard Burton’s ‘Plain and Literal’ Translation of the Arabian Nights
    • Yolanda Cerdá (Sussex/Leeds), From 'feckless fun daddies' to 'alphamums' - parents as expressions of masculinity & femininity in the UK liberal press
    • Eileen Laffan (Sussex), Stories of ‘becoming’: Narratives of Chinese international students
    • Jilan Wei (Changzhou Institute of Technology), Imagery of the moon in Su Shi’s Ci poetry and its translations
    • Dr Federica Formato (University of Brighton), Sexism in Italy seen through language: media, culture and the speakers
    • Franco La Torre (Libera) and Marco Delogu (Italian Cultural Institute, London)
    • Rafael Argenton Freire (Sussex), Language, Literature and Independence: how an Emperor's literary salon laid the foundations of Brazilian identity in the 19th Century.
    • Dr Eljee Javier (Sussex), "Do I sound white (enough)?" - Exploring the status and identities of visible ethnic minority, native English speaker teachers.
    • Deborah Smith, International Man Booker prize-winning translator, editor and publisher, Translating from the Margins. Audio recording available (for members of the University of Sussex only).
    • Caterina Mazzilli (Migration Studies, University of Sussex), Receptive Cities - Brighton and Bologna.
    • John Walker and Marco Nardi (British Sign Language, University of Sussex), Interpreting beyond words.
    • Professor Lyn Thomas and Lewes writer Tanya Shadrick: Diaries of the Outside: Annie Ernaux's urban journals and Tanya Shadrick's Wild Patience Scrolls.
    • Professor Andy Kirkpatrick (Griffith University, Brisbane): English as a Medium of Instruction in Asian Universities: challenges and prospects. [PowerPoint slides - audio recording below]
      Andy Kirkpatrick - English as a Medium of Instruction in Asian Universities:
    • Maria Jastrzᶒbska, poet, editor and translator: Between Worlds (What makes a Polish writer Polish or a British writer British?).
    • Christophe Landry (Sussex): The Internet, social media, endangered language and identity renaissance.
    • Chris McDermott, University of Sussex lead chaplain on the Art of Conflict and the Conflict in Art.
    • True Tales from the Old Hill - launch of this anthology of sixty tales, in conjunction with the Frogmore Press and the Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research at the University of Sussex.
    • Yvonne Salt (Sussex Centre for Migration Research): 'Language, Space and Love Migration' - website - exploring the emotional side of migration, and considering how people talk about and understand their love migration.
    • Pam Thurschwell (English, Sussex) and Jeremy Page (SCLS, Sussex): 'Morrissey and Marr Revisited: A Conversation about The Smiths' - discussing the legendary 80s rock band, their significance, their legacy, and Morrissey's controversial autobiography.
      A transcript of this event has been published on the Iowa Review blog, and there is a recording available below:
      Jeremy Page and Pam Thurschwell (University of Sussex) - A Conversation about The Smiths
    • Dr Paul Davies (Philosophy, Sussex): 'Language and Fiction' - recording available - exploring the logical, moral and metaphysical problems posed by the topic of fiction.
    • John Walker (Deaf Studies, Sussex): 'Sign language and spatiality' - discussing how the relationship between spatiality and sign language is manifested.
    • Prof Andrew Hadfield (English, Sussex): 'Travel, Tourism and The Sensible Observations of George Sandys' - exploring recent and early modern ideas of the relationship between the two conceptions of travel and encounter.
    • Dr Lynne Murphy (Linguistics, Sussex): 'The most acceptable hypocrisy'? Polite words in the UK and US - exploring differences between British and American English and their implications for inter-cultural communication.
    • Dr Micheline Maupoint (French, Sussex): The role and impact of cartoons in contemporary France - considering whether political cartoons remain as a significant cultural product in an era where the existence of print media is threatened by new technological developments.
    • Sasha Dugdale (Modern Poetry in Translation journal): Modern poetry and translation - reading her own poems as well as her translations of Russian poets, with discussion of the challenges of translating poetry.
    • Jules Winchester (Sussex Conversational Humour in Intercultural Interactions - exploring some of the general theories and functions of humour)
    • Dr Simon Coffey (King's College London): Narrative Positioning and Agency in Intercultural Encounters - discussing ways in which narrative approaches can extend our understanding of the experience of language learning.
    • Alexandra Loske (Art History, University of Sussex): Languages of Colour - exploring different approaches and attitudes to colour and how it is used as a tool in various art forms and disciplines.
    • Irina Mashinski (Cardinal Points journal) and Sasha Dugdale: Poetry reading by bilingual poets and translators, in association with the University of Sussex Russian Society