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.


Anonymous Mom said...

Oh, so that's what Bert (Dick Van Dyke) was talking about when he made a chalk drawing of "Punting on the Thames" in "Mary Poppins"!

6:59 pm  

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