Friday, June 30, 2006

Thursday at the Kilns

So I've seen C.S. Lewis' house.

The furniture is all fake. Everything was sold shortly after 'Warnie' Lewis died in the late '60s, so the only real artifact to speak of was a typewriter (which they almost certainly did use.)

The grave didn't really make an impact either. The man's bones are under a rock; that's where they are. The man's bones are with his brother's, they're together in death as they were in life. The man's bones haven't moved for more than 40 years; and they won't move any time soon.

The one thing that has struck me is the creeping urbanization of the area. So similar to what's happening in Sherwood Park now; the acres and acres of trees and grass and so forth that have dissapeared. I'm not sure how Lewis would have felt about the film treatments of his books; but I'm positive that he would be saddened by the houses that are now covering the six acres of land that he used to keep between his place and a pond.
I know how he feels; every time someone builds a development on previously agricultural land, I feel that the world is changing for the worse. It's strange seeing the houses, the schools, the shops; I realize that people have a right to those things but I can't help wishing for the past to remain.

The elegiac is my favorite mode of literature. King Arthur, Beowulf, biblical accounts, all of my favorite stories are about people and places that are long dead. The greatest thing about those stories, I suppose, is the inherent theme of hope for the future. The biblical account is, of course, looking forward to the return of our Lord. Arthur is 'the once and future King' of the greatest kingdom in the world, Camelot. Beowulf is more pagan, but the cycle of a nation rising to glory and falling into destruction is stirringly relevant, with the promise that 'fate' will provide another good king before too long.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Day five

Classes here are interesting.

So far we’ve had lectures on Augustine, Anglo-Saxon literature, A re-examination of the crusades, medieval ontological/theological arguments, and a slideshow tour of an Italian cathedral and its portrayal of the virgin.

The lectures don’t really “count” for anything in Oxford. You go to the lectures in order to learn about a subject, not because of the questions that will be on a test in three weeks. This could work very well, I think, in the right setting; this programme puts students from all disciplines in the same seminars, which means that everyone will have difficulty understanding some of the lectures. That’s not exactly a great thing, though there’s little chance of the program really working better in another format.

The people here are really great. Ryan is an ex-Manitoban, so we can joke about Canadian stuff. Lots of people are from the Carolinas, so we’ve had some good banter back and forth about the Stanley Cup. (Actually, that was Ryan as well-he's living in S. Carolina.) There are a few of us home-schooled people, one of whom has passed the bar in California (at age twenty) and practiced Law for a year already; she’s in a literature BA program now.

The seminars are quite laid-back. Nothing more intense than any other courses I’ve taken, though we haven’t started the real digging yet.

Dr. Santha Bhattacharji is a full-time Professor of English at one of the Colleges here, and she’s got an amazing background familiarity with most areas of English literature. Our seminar is focused on a Christian apologetic approach to literature, though, and our first day was a very lightweight discussion of “The Parson’s Prologue” (Canterbury Tales) in that context. I don’t feel like I’m really working yet; I’m sure that will change when I start writing my essays. (That should happen pretty soon, I think, or I’ll be in trouble. No one has given me a deadline or outline or assignment or anything though, which is somewhat frightening.)

My C.S. Lewis lecturer is a former Oxford scholar, former president of the Oxford Lewis Society, former warden-in-residence at the Kilns (Lewis’ Oxford residence) and current chaplain of one of the colleges at “the other place” (Cambridge) where he’s pursuing his doctorate and writing a book on a big secret of some sort related to Lewis' literary and scholarly work. Day one was, frankly, a bit dull; the Professor knows a lot about Lewis, but biographical information is not exactly a good way to engage seven students in a seminar. To be fair, most of the other students didn’t know most of the information, but it might have been better to assign a biography for reading in that case… We’ll start getting into the meat of the course tomorrow, I think. I’m really looking forward to it.

We played one round of mafia for games night tonight, but everyone lost interest after that. It’s been weird socializing with disciplined students; we all want to slack off because there are other people around who want to do the same, and it leads to an atmosphere of laxity in general. It seems more people are studying tonight, but with the laid-back attitude of the seminar professors it’s hard to feel especially motivated to go write an astounding essay.

Cafeteria food is a mixed bag. We had smoked halibut tonight, which was relatively delicious as far as smoked fish goes, but I felt a bit ripped off. The sausage at lunch was terrible, mostly filler. Desserts are unimpressive. Food here is either expensive, unappetizing, or off the back of a Kebab van. I can see why they’re so popular in university towns like this.

Sunday morning was church at St. Ebbe’s, the parish church in Oxford since forever. We went to the family service, so it was reasonably upbeat and there were children everywhere after the service. I’ll try the service at St. Alldate’s next week, they’re supposed to be fairly “charismatic.”

Punting is very difficult. It's like canoeing, except the boat is shallow and the only paddle is to help the person in the front steer. Everything else is controlled by the person in the back who stands and pushes off of the riverbed with a pole. Very tricky, that. Especially when there are rosebushes to run into on the bank.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

after supper and a quick orientation meeting...

Some of us decided to go for a quick evening tour of the city.

Some of the group (we started out with 25 or so, but we split off into different groups as the night progressed.)

This is the Radcliffe Camera, a domed building behind the Bodleian Library.

"The Eagle and Child," the pub famous as the meeting place of the Inklings (members included Tolkiens, Lewises, Williams, eventually Sayers, and a few other less-known names in recent british literary history.)

We got back at 11; walking a few miles sure helps overcome the jetlag. (Though we took some pretty big detours on the way back and most of us were ready to collapse, which was probably overkill.)

Day Two: The circus is fun! Let's all go to the circus!

Landed at Heathrow just after 7:00AM. I have no idea what time that was in Edmonton, I think it was very late.
They don't let you take pictures of London from the air, because you're on approach and they demand that all electronics be turned off. Must be a deal with the postcard makers. Conspiracy!

Getting through the pont of entry is insane. At 7 in the morning it took at least 45 minutes, I think it was more. If you have a EU or Swiss passport it's quicker, or if you have a UK passport there's a huge empty lane directly to the point of entry. Everyone else has to go through a maze of crowd-control barriers like a bunch of children waiting for a rollercoaster; except that these people are old and tired and carrying too much carry-on luggage. (The children handle it quite well--they just go to the side of the line near the front and read a book or two while mummy and daddy stand in line.)

Roads in England (the London area, anyway) remind me of Vancouver, until you get out of the immediate area of the city.
When you get out into the countryside it's not really like anything I've seen before. There's a huge, super-modern highway going through farmland that seems ancient: big, beautiful trees everywhere, old buildings, oddly-shaped towns beside strangely-shaped fields full of sheep or cattle or Canola. Then, you hit a renently-developed residential area that looks just like any other suburban residential area, except that 30 seconds later you're back looking at the farmland.

First Day

The first day overseas, the first day flying in a commercial aircraft, the first day of jet-lag...
All in all, just a step toward the goal,

Air Canada isn't as horrible as I was lead to believe, but it wasn't exactly spectacular. Overseas trips still do get food+drinks, though the drinks are really the only part that's up to any kind of standard for human consumption. I made the mistake of adding salt to an already-salty dish of potatos and "roast beef."
Nonstop flights are a good idea. We were almost twenty minutes late into Montreal, so my flight to Heathrow was on final call when I stepped into the terminal. Fun. I tried not to look into the eyes of the other passengers as I squeezed my way through their seats with my flailing carry-on luggage.

_The Pink Panther_ wasn't as horrid as I was expecting.
(It wasn't really all that good, though. It was funny in a few spots, because Steve Martin can do slapstick fairly well; and touching in a few spots, because he knows how to make you feel sorry for idiots who aren't really all that bad in their heat of hearts... But the rest of Steve Martin I can do without. Sellers was Clouseau, MGM should let sleeping dogs lie.
Oh yeah, Clive Owen should be the next James Bond. His cameo was perfect.

View Stats