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Champion for transnational modern languages is new director of the Institute of Modern Languages Research


The Institute of Modern Languages Research (IMLR) at the University of London’s School of Advanced Study, has announced the appointment of Professor Charles Burdett as its new director.

Professor Charles Burdett

Currently professor of Italian studies in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at Durham University, he will succeed Professor Catherine Davies, who led the institute for more than five years. Professor Burdett will assume the full-time directorship from 15 January 2021. Dr Godela Weiss-Sussex will continue to serve as acting director until this date.

‘I am delighted to be starting work at the IMLR, an institute that is essential for the wellbeing and survival of the disciplinary field of modern languages at a time when it needs urgently to respond to a rapidly changing national and global environment,’ said Professor Burdett.

Professor Burdett gained his PhD at Oxford University in 1994 and has since taught at the universities of Cardiff and Bristol. His principal areas of research include literary culture under fascism, travel writing, the Italian colonial presence in Libya and East Africa and its legacy, and the representation of Islam and the Islamic world in recent Italian literature and culture. 
He has written a number of books based on his research, including Journeys Through Fascism: Italian Travel Writing between the Wars and, more recently, Italy, Islam and the Islamic World: Representations and Reflections from 9/11 to the Arab Uprisings. The work examines some of the most significant voices that have made themselves heard in defining Italy’s relationship with Islam and the Islamic world in a period of intense geopolitical and cultural upheaval.

Over recent years, a large part of his research has been defined by his role as principal investigator of the Arts and Humanities Research Council beacon project, Transnationalizing Modern Languages: Mobility, Identity and Translation in Modern Italian Cultures (TML) (2014–17) and by its follow-on grants TML: Global Challenges (2016–17) and TML: Exhibitions for Impact (2017–18). 

From the insights that it has developed into transnational Italian cultures, TML has played an important part in reframing approaches – in particular through the book series, Transnational Modern Languages, with Liverpool University Press – to the study of mobility, language and culture within modern languages.
Professor Burdett is currently working on a monographic study on the representation of the Italian empire and its afterlife as well as developing a collaborative project on the mediation – through literature, film and curatorial practice – of the legacies of Italian colonial involvement.

‘We are thrilled that Charles will be joining the School in January. His work exemplifies the importance of partnerships and connections in addressing the challenges of modern language research now. I am sure that he will take the IMLR in directions that reach out across the humanities in exciting new ways,’ said Professor Jo Fox, the School of Advanced Study’s acting dean.