Why Oxford is the Best Place to Be a Writer, by Dr. Kieron Winn

summer course, summer in Oxford, summer in Cambridge, Oxford Summer Courses Dr. Kieron Winn’s first collection of poetry, The Mortal Man, was published in 2015, and has been widely praised www.kieronwinn.com. He was educated at Christ Church, Oxford, where he was awarded a doctorate for a thesis on Herbert Read and T. S. Eliot. His poems have appeared in magazines including Agenda, Agni, The Dark Horse, Literary Imagination, The London Magazine, The New Criterion, New Statesman, Oxford Magazine, Poetry Review, The Rialto, The Spectator and The Times Literary Supplement. Selections of his poems have featured anthologies including Carcanet’s Oxford Poets 2007 and Waywiser’s Joining Music with Reason, and he has read his poems on BBC TV and radio. He has twice won, in 2007 and 2013, the University of Oxford’s most valuable literary award, the English Poem on a Sacred Subject Prize. He lives in Oxford, where he is a freelance teacher, and has been a tutor with Oxford Summer Courses since its founding in 2010.

I’ve heard it said that Oxford is the best place in Britain to be a writer. Partly this is because of writers whose footsteps you tread in, such as:

1. Geoffrey of Monmouth (medieval teller of tales of King Arthur)

2. Percy Bysshe Shelley (poet)

3. Dorothy L. Sayers (crime writer)

4. Elizabeth Bowen (novelist and short story writer)

5. W. B. Yeats (poet)

6. Philip Pullman (novelist)

The latter writes, in the trilogy His Dark Materials, of openings to parallel universes. Oxford can feel like that: it is crammed with quadrangles and corridors where different worlds exist behind each door. Working alongside each other in a college might be a biographer of Rasputin, a compiler of a Spanish Dictionary, and a researcher into black holes.

Oxford used to be a shallow tropical sea, and there are one or places where you can see fossilised coral and oysters. Sometimes, in the winter, there’s so much rain that it threatens to become a sea again. But, everyone agrees, in the summer, when you would be here, it’s beautiful. The honey-coloured buildings soak up and radiate the sunlight, and there is no shortage of green lawn to recline on. If you’re studying creative writing, you will read extracts from major writers, then pick up their tools. T. S. Eliot says that immature poets imitate, but mature poets steal. In other words, mature writers make the techniques their own. You might learn how to use fewer words, and not to mix your metaphors. You might look at how to use the stream-of-consciousness style of Virginia Woolf (this may involve unlearning a fair amount!). Or you might learn how to use poetic rhythm to generate meaning and make your words sink into the reader’s memory. All the teaching is done in small groups, with the tutorials mostly in pairs. You have to engage and talk, and this can be a great boost to confidence and learning.

Here are three of my favourite quotes about Oxford. The first is from W. B. Yeats: ‘I wonder anybody does anything at Oxford but dream and remember, the place is so beautiful. One almost expects the people to sing instead of speaking. It is all – the colleges I mean – like an opera.’

Here’s Matthew Arnold: ‘Beautiful city! so venerable, so lovely, so unravaged by the fierce intellectual life of our century, so serene! … whispering from her towers the last enchantments of the Middle Age.’

And finally, Oscar Wilde: ‘Oxford still remains the most beautiful thing in England, and nowhere else are life and art so exquisitely blended, so perfectly made one.’

But don’t take their word for it: come and see for yourself, and make your own mind up.

 

Learn more about Dr. Kieron Winn’s Creative Writing course.

Posted: February 14, 2018

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Posted: February 12, 2018

2018 Summer Course Accommodation Highlight: Worcester College

If you are attending a 2018 summer course in Oxford, you will be asked to choose an accommodation option between the five options available after your application has been accepted. This week, we’re highlighting one of our college accommodation options, located at Worcester College. Worcester College and its grounds have an extensive history, dating back to 1283. The college is well-known in Oxford for its award-winning beauty and modern accommodation. With historic buildings, beautiful grounds, and a history of illustrious alumni, Worcester College is an important Oxford institution.  

Worcester College as it is seen today is located on the grounds of its predecessor, Gloucester College. Worcester College cottagesBuilt in the late 13th century, Gloucester College housed Benedictine monks and was located near what was then the outskirts of the city of Oxford. The cottages of Worcester College are the last remaining buildings of the former Gloucester College, and are among the oldest residential buildings in Oxford. Today, Worcester College is located a in a fantastic central location. The college is a short walk from George Street, one of the central streets in Oxford, and Gloucester Green market. At Worcester College, you will live near the best that the city of Oxford has to offer.  

Worcester College is well-known in Oxford for its meticulously groomed gardens and sprawling acres of land. Worcester College GardensBecause Gloucester College before it was once located on the edge of the city, Worcester College, when it was established in the 18th century, was allowed to keep its extensive land. As a result, Worcester College today has remarkable, sprawling grounds, including multiple playing fields for sports, its own apple orchard, and a picturesque lake. The groundskeeping for all 26 acres is a large undertaking, and the groundskeepers and gardeners of Worcester College have a fantastic blog that outlines all of the work that goes into making this college so beautiful.  

The accommodation at Worcester College for Oxford Summer Courses is located in a modern building within the college, surrounded by the beautiful lake and gardens. The ensuite rooms look out over the Worcester College lake, a view that you will not find anywhere else in Oxford. For students, there is a shared common room at the college which offers a place to socialise with your new friends and relax between classes. Worcester College is also located a short walk from the middle of town, so Oxford’s best restaurants and shopping are mere steps from this historic institution. Worcester College is also one of the only colleges with playing fields, and the college often excels in sports as a result. Their football, hockey, and cricket teams are consistent winners, and are fun to watch practice in your spare time.  

Learn More

Visit our Oxford accommodation page to learn more about Worcester College. To apply to a 2018 summer course, and to stay in our college accommodation this summer, please visit our apply page.

Posted: January 16, 2018

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