Blog: November 2013

2 Weeks or 4 Weeks

Here at Oxford University we don’t really do calendar dates like everyone else. Today isn’t the 26th of November to me, instead it is Tuesday of 7th Week. Most days I don’t know the date, but I always know what day of which week it is! The entire year is divided into terms, and the terms divided into weeks, ranging from -4th through to 12th or 13th week in some cases. Term itself runs from 1st week through to 8th week.

It is now, as I said above, 7th week, which means it is the penultimate week of full term, then the vacation begins in 9th week.

It is 7th Week, and I am tired… this always happens at Oxford, by 7th Week the last thing you want to do is another essay, and you’re barreling through, driven by caffeine and the promise of the finish line. This is not just because of the work, but because of all the other activities, I was at a Ball last weekend and am off to another one this weekend (this one coming is a ‘White Tie’ Ball, which should be superb fun!) But finishing an incredibly formal party at 6am does take it’s toll on one!.

Oxford Summer Courses is not quite like this! (phew…) We deliberately limit the courses to 2 weeks or 4 weeks (perhaps doing 2 different courses!) to allow you to get a great taste of Oxford (not only academically, but also culturally and socially) without it being too tiring. This may be a summer course, but it is also your summer holiday!

We will make sure those weeks are packed full of stuff, bursting at the seams with fabulous trips, restaurants, talks, visits, sports, debating, tutorials, seminars, reading, studying, sightseeing, punting, and more. But it doing more than four weeks would make it more about endurance than getting the wonderful taste of Oxford which we are passionate to offer!

Doing 2 weeks with us allows you to study one subject in one-on-one tutorials with an Oxford Tutor and to get a phenomenal depth of understanding of it. If you choose to do 4 weeks you might decide to do a different subject in your second course – perhaps combining two weeks of Business and Economics with two weeks of Philosophy or International Relations! By providing this limit we can really offer you the best of Oxford without you feeling as tired an Oxford student does after 7 weeks here!

I do have formal hall in 90mins though, which should make life easier!

Posted: November 26, 2013

C.S Lewis and Oxford’s Literary Heritage

Today, 22nd November, is the fiftieth anniversary of the death of C.S.Lewis, beloved author of (amongst other works) The Narnia Chronicles and well known as a Christian thinker and apologist after his conversion which he chronicles marvelously in his book ‘Surprised by Joy’. This anniversary is being marked across Oxford, where he spent much of his life, with various services and lectures this weekend.

C.S. Lewis isn’t the only famous writer to be linked to Oxford though, and one of the things I enjoy most about being here in Oxford is being moments away from literary history. Whether it is looking out of my window to see the ‘dreaming spires’ which inspired Matthew Arnold to write in his poem Thyris:

“And that sweet city with her dreaming spires,
   She needs not June for beauty’s heightening,”

Or, walking down St Mary’s Passage, alongside the University Church and seeing the door (part of my College) which is said to have inspired C.S. Lewis’ ‘The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe’. You cannot help but be surrounded by the literary history of this city. Perhaps more remarkably a friend of mine had a room in his College which was once J.R.R Tolkien’s.

More recently though, Oxford has inspired Philip Pullman’s masterful ‘His Dark Materials’ Trilogy, and has been the location of many of the scenes in the Harry Potter films. Last Summer at Oxford Summer Courses we got a chance to sit in Merton Field, by Christ Church Meadows and watch a production of Alice in Wonderland, based on the stories by Lewis Carrol who was spent his academic life at Christ Church which towered up behind us as we watched the production.

It is worth saying more about C.S. Lewis though. He was a fellow of Magdalen College for 29 Years, whose academic work was in Medieval and Renaissance Literature. It was while here in Oxford that he wrote many of his most notable works. Just up the road from Somerville College where Oxford Summer Courses will be based next year is the Eagle and Child, a Pub where in 1939 Lewis and Tolkien would meet with others in an informal group known as ‘The Inklings’ where they collaborated on their writings. If anyone is looking for a fun introduction to some of Lewis’ other works beyond the Narnia Books, then I can recommend the audiobook of The Screwtape Letters read by the indomitable John Cleese. It is a classic work, read in style by Cleese.

Posted: November 22, 2013

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