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Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


MMLL at the 2024 Cambridge Festival

MMLL at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas


We are excited to share the 2024 line-up of MMLL events at the upcoming Cambridge Festival. This year we will have seven events happening across 14th, 17th, 19th and 26th March.

The Cambridge Festival is an annual interdisciplinary programme of events covering all aspects of world-leading research happening at the University of Cambridge. There will be more than 350 events and activities across the Festival themes of: Society, Health, Environment and Discovery. We are thrilled to be a part of this festival and for the opportunity to share with you the research and expertise of our academics. 

Please click on the title of an event to access more details and booking information.


Djudeo-espanyol of Thessaloniki: An endangered language and heritage

When: Thursday 14th March, 4:00-5:30pm 

Where: : Lady Mitchell Hall, Sidgwick Avenue, CB3 9DA (,0.108993,18)

Featuring Prof Ioanna Sitaridou (Cambridge), Dr Željko Jovanović (INALCO, Paris) and Prof. Andrés Enrique Arias (Universitat de les Illes Balears), this talk will explore Djudeo-espanyol, a Romance language spoken by the descendants of those Jews that left the various kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula in the aftermath of the persecutions (see, for instance, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella of Castile’s shameful Edict of Exile in 1492), expulsions and forced conversions that took place in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Expelled Jews found shelter in the Ottoman Empire, which was looking to expand commercial activities at the time. Many Jews settled in the buoyant Byzantine city of Thessaloniki (Salonica), which later became known as “Jerusalem of the Balkans”. However, the linguistic history of this community is neither unified nor well-documented. This talk will set out to reconstruct the socio-linguistic world of these communities in 16th C. Thessaloniki.

To join in online, please use the following details to attend:

Meeting ID: 935 7643 2934

Passcode: 269318

Rules fo the human zoo: Nietzsche's perfect society

When: Thursday 14th March, 6:00-7:00pm

Where: Little hall, Sidgwick Avenue, CB3 9DA,0.109859,18

Dr Martin Ruehl will lead an interactive seminar involving a short presentation followed by a discussion. 

Most people consider Nietzsche an apolitical thinker. His concern, they believe, is with culture, not the state, and with the great individual leading an authentic, self-determined life far removed from society. The aim of this lecture is to revise this perception and to present Nietzsche as a philosopher almost obsessively preoccupied with social issues: the creation and maintenance of community values, education, class difference and distinctions, strife and revolution as well as authority and order.

Modern Luck

When: Sunday 17th March, 11:00am-12:00pm

Where: SG1, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, CB3 9DP

Professor Robert Gordon will set out to explore the enigma of luck, examining the hybrid forms it has taken on in the modern imagination and modern storytelling, whether in books, films or television. Ranging from Pinocchio to Casablanca to Philip K. Dick, and much else besides, the talk lays out the uses and meanings of the language of luck, and uncovers some of the patterns and motifs of luck that govern it and that we use to decipher the world around us. 

The secret story of the ibirapema: indigenous Brazilians in 16th-century European imagination

Where: SG1, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, CB3 9DP

When: Sunday 17th March, 1:30pm-2:30pm

Dr Vivien Kogut Lessa de Sá will explore the Tupi ibirapema and its changing cultural and material value: from deadly weapon, to token of cannibalism, to symbol of dangerous femininity, to online sales item. How can objects like the ibirapema throw light on early cultural exchanges between Europe and the New World? How do they convey the expectations, projections and fears permeating such cultural encounters? And, finally, what meaning to they have for us today?

Between Criticism and Fiction: A Conversation with Carlos Fonseca

Where: SG1, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, CB3 9DP

When: Sunday 17th March, 3:00-4:00pm

Dr Carlos Fonseca will be in conversation with Parvathy Salil to discuss the overlap between his work as a novelist and an academic. Salil and Fonseca will discuss his latest novel, Austral (MacLehose, 2023), as well as his previous two novels Natural History and Colonel Lágrimas.

Old men, mad men, dead men

Where: SG1, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, CB3 9DP

When: Sunday 17th March, 5:00-6:00pm

Dr James Womack will be focusing on the work of three very different poets: the sixth-century Latin elegist Maximian, the cult Spanish poète maudit Leopoldo María Panero (1948-2014), and the contemporary memoirist Manuel Vilas (born 1962). What unites them is the way their work looks in uncompromising detail at how desire outruns performance, and the fragility that underlies even the most apparently macho statements. 

Illustrated books and humour in Cambridge University Library’s Liberation collection (1944-1946)

Where: Faculty of Divinity, Lecture Theatre 2, 25 West Road, CB3 9EF

When: Tuesday 19th March, 5:00-6:00pm

Dr Irene Fabry-Tehranchi and Sophie Dubillot will examine a selection of the Liberation Collection at Cambridge University Library, which consists of about 3,300 books in French on the Second World War, the Occupation and the Liberation. They will share a selection of illustrated works as well as humorous drawings representing struggles such as restrictions, housing issues, and missing family members, in an ideologically divided country in dire need of reconstruction.

Read more about this event in this Languages across Borders blog post by the University Library.

Against Recognition: Opacity as a social and political strategy

Where: SG1, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, CB3 9DP

When: Tuesday 19th March, 6:30-7:30pm

Professor Martin Crowley will give a talk on the surprising and widespread politics of opacity. In modern liberal democracies, access to social and political inclusion is granted on the basis of recognition by the state as a valid political participant. For some citizens, however, this recognition comes at too high a price. The talk will discuss activist movements in contemporary France which have adopted practices of opacity - modes of presence which do not rely on recognition by others in order to be socially and politically effective - as alternative forms of action. 

What's novel about a novel? Storytelling and travelling knowledge

Where: Frankopan Hall, West Court, Jesus College, CB5 8BQ

When: 26th March, 19:30 - 20:45

Join the Cambridge Festival and the Intellectual Forum as prizewinning author Shida Bazyar discusses how novels take their characters and their readers on journeys across cultural contexts.