Word for word – celebrating women writers who work across language and culture

Monday 13 May 2019

Some people have a gift for languages. Watching them dip in and out of other tongues can inspire the monoglots among us. But when it comes to literature and writing in other languages, and translating, the challenges increase, which is why support organisations and networks have been created.

One of the most respected among them, the Centre for the Study of Contemporary Women’s Writing (CCWW), is one of six research centres affiliated to the Institute of Modern Languages Research (IMLR), itself part of the School of Advanced Study (SAS), University of London. And this year it celebrates its 10th anniversary with an exciting range of events starting on 17 May.

‘Our centre has become a beacon for research on women’s writing and we are very proud of the hard work behind it and the support we have enjoyed worldwide,’ said co-directors and anniversary celebration organisers, Dr Godela Weiss-Sussex and Professor Shirley Jordan. ‘It’s hugely rewarding to see the work of women writers given the prominence it deserves and to create opportunities for cross-language contact and comparison.’

Founded by Professor Gill Rye, the CCWW was launched on 16 October 2009, having grown out of the Centre for Women’s Writing in French (a hub of activity since 2000). The languages it now supports are French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish (including Catalan and Galician).

In keeping with the CCWW’s role as an umbrella organisation for scholars interested in women’s writing in its supported languages, the anniversary events are geared to maximise networking opportunities, to foster cross-cultural collaboration among scholars, and share and stimulate online research resources.

The CCWW’s core activities tend towards reading groups and author readings, themed workshops, study days and conferences, many of which explore the relationships between authors and texts in more than one culture and language. The anniversary celebrations represent the best of these and can be found here.

The event that perhaps best represents the centre’s work is the conference on ‘Translingualism in contemporary women’s writing’ (30–31 May). It’ll be asking what multilingual writing can achieve, considering the work, among others, of Anglo-Caribbean, Somali-Italian, Amazigh-Catalan, and Japanese-German authors. Timed to coincide with the conference will be the exciting author/translator conversation at the IMLR in Senate House (30 May at 6pm) ‘Encounter: Katja Petrowskaja and Shelley Frisch’. (See our Talking Humanities blog ‘Found in translation: celebrating the women who write across languages’.)

Katja Petrowskaja, author of bestseller Vielleicht Esther/Maybe Esther: A Family Story, and Shelley Frisch, who translated her book and many others, are both multiple award winners and are among the best in this field. Only last month, Maybe Esther was shortlisted for the Pushkin House Russian Book Prize, which celebrates the best books about the Russian-speaking world. They will explore the processes of writing and translating, and talk about their challenges and achievements.

The CCWW 10th anniversary events:

  • ‘Women and power in French and Francophone cultures and societies’, Women in French 15th biennial conference 2019 (organised by Newcastle University), 17–19 May
  • ‘Across languages: translingualism in contemporary women’s writing’ conference (IMLR, Senate House), 30–31 May
  • Encounter: Katja Petrowskaja and  Shelley Frisch, author–translator conversation (IMLR, Senate House), 30 May
  • Susana Chávez-Silverman, A bilingual reading and Q&A (IMLR, Senate House), 1 June
  • ‘Translating women: breaking borders and building bridges in the  English-language book industry’ conference (IMLR, Senate House), 31 October–1 November (Call for papers open until 17 May)
  • ‘Contemporary women’s writing: writing for change’. A celebration of the work of the Centre’s founder, Gill Rye (IMLR, Senate House) 8 November


Notes for editors:

The CCWW promotes and facilitates national and international research on contemporary writing by women in French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish (including Catalan and Galician). CCWW’s activities and events focus predominantly on a rich corpus of post-1968 authors and texts, but also include activities that work with a broader understanding of the ‘contemporary’. Every year it organises a wide range of events, from reading groups and author readings to themed workshops, study days and conferences, many of which explore relationships between writings across cultures and have a comparative focus.

  1. For further information, please contact: Maureen McTaggart, Media and Public Relations Officer, School of Advanced Study, University of London +44 (0)20 7862 8859 / Maureen.mctaggart@sas.ac.uk.
  2. The Institute of Modern Languages Research (IMLR) was established in 2004 (previously the Institute of Germanic Studies and the Institute of Romance Studies, founded in 1950 and 1989 respectively). Until August 2013, IMLR was known as the Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies. Its current name emphasises its national research role and wider remit. The institute is committed to facilitating, initiating and promoting dialogue and research for the modern languages community. www.modernlanguages.sas.ac.uk
  3. The School of Advanced Study (SAS), University of London, is the UK’s national centre for the promotion and support of research in the humanities. SAS and its member institutes offer unparalleled resources, facilities and academic opportunities across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. Last year SAS welcomed 892 research fellows and associates, held 1,903 events highlighting the latest research in the humanities, received 25.9 million online visits to its research resources and platforms, and hosted 173,493 visits to its specialist libraries and collections. The School also leads Being Human, the UK’s only nationwide festival of the humanities. Find out more at www.sas.ac.uk or follow SAS on Twitter at @SASNews.
  4. The University of London is a federal University and is one of the oldest, largest and most diverse universities in the UK. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University is recognised globally as a world leader in Higher Education. Its members are 18 self-governing member institutions of outstanding reputation, and nine research institutes. Learn more about the University of London at http://www.london.ac.uk