Behind Closed Doors: dramatizing hidden truths in real stories

In 1931 Gandhi came to London to press for the Independence of India. Instead of staying in a West End hotel he lived in an East London community centre. Charlie Chaplin was also in London at the same time for the British premiere of City Lights, and wanted to meet Gandhi.34101 chaplinghandi.indd

Writer James Kenworth’s critically acclaimed play, When Chaplin Met Gandhi, told the story of this remarkable meeting between two of the greatest figures of the Twentieth Century.

No one really knows what took place at the meeting between these two men as it was held behind closed doors, which meant that conjecture and supposition played a large part in the writing of the script.

James discusses questions of historical accuracy, biography, interpretation, and the delicate balance between fidelity to the truth and the need to tell a good story.

Date: Thursday 23rd February 2017

Time: 15.00-16.00

Location: Room C126, College Building, Middlesex University, London, NW4 4BT

“While holding with its presentation of character, this play also passes on a surprising amount of information and in an educational context could provide a valuable starting point for exploration of the topics it touches on and discussion of the issues it raises.” British Theatre Guide

This is a show that mixes history and fiction to craft a fine piece of theatre with a message for our times.” thepublicreviews


James Kenworth is a qualified teacher, playwright and creative writing/drama workshop leader/devisor. His plays include Johnny Song, Gob, Polar Bears, issue-led plays Everybody’s World (Elder Abuse), Dementia’s Journey (Dementia), and site-specific plays When Chaplin Met Gandhi (Kingsley Hall), Revolution Farm (Newham City Farm) and A Splotch of Red: Keir Hardie in West Ham (Newham Libraries/Community Links). His play, Dementia’s Journey, won the 2015 University of Stirling International Dementia Award in the category: Dementia & the Arts. When Chaplin Met Gandhi has recently been published by TSL Publications. He currently lectures in English, Creative Writing, and Media for Middlesex University.

Polysemous Words: Meaning and Pragmatics

Professor Robyn Carston from UCL discusses how multiple senses for a word arise in communication at an upcoming Language and Communication Research Seminar.

Date: Thursday 9th February 2017

Time: 15.00-16.00

Location: Room C127, College Building, Middlesex University, London, NW4 4BTRed_Mouth_PNG_Clipart_Image-321.png

Most words are ‘polysemous’, that is, they can be used to express a range of semantically-related senses. E.g., the word ‘mouth’ can refer to just the outside part (Wipe your mouth), just the inside (Her mouth was dry from nervousness), to the entrance of a cave, to the part of a river that enters into an ocean; to a whole person (I have four mouths to feed), to someone who talks too much (big mouth), among numerous others.

In this talk, Professor Robyn Carston will discuss how multiple senses for a word arise in communication (via pragmatic processes) and what, if any, the core meaning is from which the other senses are derived.


Robyn Carston is Professor of Linguistics at University College London and Senior Researcher at the Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature, Oslo.  Her work on language and communication is strongly interdisciplinary, integrating ideas from linguistics, philosophy of language and cognitive science.  Her research areas include the semantics/pragmatics distinction, explicit and implicit communication, relevance theory, non-literal uses of language, and the nature of word meaning.  Her publications include the widely cited monograph Thoughts and Utterances (2002, Blackwell); she is currently working on a collection of papers, Pragmatics and Semantic Content, to be published by Oxford University Press.

Other upcoming Language and Communication Research Seminars include (all Thursdays 3-4 pm):

**Please note that the talk by Federico Farini originally planned for 26 January 2017 has been postponed to Thursday 9 March 2017 .**

The Language and Communication Research Seminars are free and open to all staff, students and guests. For more information or if you would like to lead a session, contact Anna Charalambidou.

Emerging Research in English


Yesterday we had our first ever event jointly organised by the ‘Language & Communication’ and ‘Promotional Cultures’ research clusters.


Our PhD candidates talked about aspects of their ever evolving research projects. These are the titles of the presentations:

  • Salim Bouherar:  “Idiom teaching and understanding: A first language or imperial culture?”
  • Narmina Fataliyeva: “Linguistic and extra linguistic factors regulating the synonym choice in political discourse”
  • Benoît Leclercq (pictured above): “Understanding the concept of semantics in relevance theory”
  • Tatjana Milosavljevic: ”Neoliberal Britain in Black British cultural production of the 1980s”
  • Kyu Hyun Park: “Speech production in intercultural communication”
  • Ramona Pistol: “Metaphor and metarepresentation’

We could have kept discussing the projects for hours, but unfortunately had to leave the room at 5pm, as it was booked for another event. Undeterred, we continued the conversation at the beautifully decorated Atrium of the College Building.



Upcoming Language & Communication Research Seminars

The Language and Communication Research Cluster are delighted to announce the upcoming speakers in our seminar series:

  • Tuesday 6th December 15.00-17.00: PhD students’ presentations, at C133


Semester 2 Seminars: all Thursdays 15.00-16.00

  • 26 January 2017: Federico Farini (University of Suffolk) on promoting migrant-background children’s inclusion and learning in three European countries
  • 9 February 2017: Robyn Carston (University College London) on Polysemous Words: Meaning and Pragmatics
  • 23 February 2017: James Kenworth (Middlesex University) about Behind Closed Doors: dramatizing hidden truths in real stories
  • 23 March 2017: Matt Hayler (University of Birmingham) on Ambient Literature: the move from print to screen


The Language and Communication Research Seminars are free and open to all staff, students and guests. For more information, or to be added to our events mailing list, please email Anna (

Upcoming Language & Communication Research Seminars


We are getting really excited about our first Language and Communication Research Seminar of this academic year:

Naturalising Interpretation – Interpreting Naturalism: Towards a Neurosemiotic Model of Interpretation

Date: Thursday 10th November 2016

Time: 15.00-16.00

Location: Committee Room 2, Town Hall, Middlesex University, London, NW4 4BT

James Carney from Lancaster University discusses whether interpretation is a mode of inquiry or a cognitive capacity that should itself be a target of inquiry. For more information on James’s talk, click here.


We have an impressive list of even more speakers and events lined up for you, including:

All event are on Thursdays 15.00-16.00, unless otherwise stated and we really hope to see you there!

For more information, or to be added to our events mailing list, please email Anna (

Images of tradition

Robert Eaglestone from Royal Holloway discusses the roles that the idea of ‘tradition’ plays at an upcoming Language and Communication Research Seminar.

Date: Thursday 8th December 2016

Time: 15.00-16.00

Location: Room CG83 [PLEASE NOTE UPDATED ROOM NUMBER], College Building, Middlesex University, London, NW4 4BT

‘Tradition’ is invoked all the time in many different contexts and for many different and often opposing reasons. It seems an especially important term for scholarship, in pedagogy and in literature (where, for example, ‘genre’ is a marker of tradition). Yet what ‘tradition’ is, in the abstract – if it can be seen in the abstract –  is rarely discussed.

The aim of this exploratory paper is to try to examine some of the different senses through which ‘tradition’ is invoked and what these might mean in terms what we owe to, take on from or reject from traditions. Traditions can be ‘just what we do’; authentic or invented; threads or ropes; things handed on; things taken up; a conversation; a root or enrootedness; an obligation; a chain; a language.  By looking at these metaphors of tradition and what is implied, this talk aims to think about the roles that the idea of ‘tradition’ plays.


Professor Robert Eaglestone is Professor of Contemporary Literature and Thought at Royal Holloway, University of London.  He works on contemporary literature and literary theory, contemporary philosophy and on Holocaust and Genocide studies. He is the author or editor of several books and Series Editor of Routledge Critical Thinkers.