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Tuesday 27 October 2020


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.

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.

Commenting on his appointment, Professor Jo Fox, the School of Advanced Study’s acting dean, said ‘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.’


Notes to editors

  1. For further information, please contact: Maureen McTaggart, Media and Public Relations Officer, School of Advanced Study, University of London:
  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.
  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 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 17 self-governing member institutions and nine research institutes of outstanding reputation. Learn more about the University of London at