Wednesday-July 4th

Buckland: dead panther, anyone?

July fourth is just another day in England.  So we had our class and learned a bit about King Charles I, the Civil War, Puritans and Quakers, what meats one would eat, and Christ Church. William Buckland caught our attention and his goal was to eat every animal on the planet–not all of them but simply to try all of them. The anecdotes in our text were particularly attention getting:  jackals under the table munching on guinea pigs.  We did ponder if we really could draw a line between eating one kind of animal (chickens, say) and others that seem quite upsetting to us (dead panthers.)  Other points of discussion:

  • the fall of the great and mighty (King Charles I and Cardinal Wolsey)
  • the wives of Henry VIII and his error in blaming them for a lack of a son
  • William Penn, the Quakers, and Quaker Oats.  Turns out that Quakers had nothing to do with Quaker Oats…

But perhaps the most riveting activity was we decided to hold our very own All Souls’ entrance exam essay on one word.  Our word was… pots.  This choice was inspiring by an impassioned outcry of injustice and rebellion against the apparent theft of the kitchen pots and utensils, thereby depriving our group from their ability to cook their own dinners. The resulting array of essays were All Souls’ worthy: spanning meditations on Native Americans, poetry rhymed in couplets, one’s family cooking traditions, idea of a pot as the key to civilization, and many more.  We hope to publish the full array in the near future.

Tolkien posterThis afternoon we visited the delightful exhibit at the new Bodleian on J.R.R. Tolkien and his magical kingdom.  What struck me quite powerfully is the geography and the language that he created so meticulously and thoroughly.  The allusions to the Norse myths were
very strong if not seemingly acknowledged by the exhibit itself.

The SJC Oxford Experience 2018

Evening light on the Radcliffe Camera

Evening light on the Radcliffe Camera

So in a week I will be in Oxford, England with 15 students and my co-instructor to continue our spring class on the history of Oxford and the concept of place.  My co-leader is an accomplished historian so I will defer to him when it comes to the nuances of history, although I know a tad about it, having spent the last 6 months reading along with the students about the history of Oxford University and its presence in England and the British world view.

My small contribution has been to invite students, along with myself, to consider the nature of place and how it affects our sense of self, community, and world.  Philosophers have always had an interest in place, even when they try to adopt a universal viewpoint.  Phenomenologists in particular are intrigued by how our perceptions shape our ideas and those ideas ouroborosconsequently affect our perceptions:  an ouroboros of a conundrum.  A geographer, Tim Cresswell, has been our guide but I am hoping that on site we will adventure into our own reflections using Oxford as our canvas for place.

Tim Cresswell

Tim Cresswell

I hope to continue a series of these posts, sharing our experiences throughout our three weeks and our reflections on the ways in which Oxford, education, class, nature, nurture, and above all space (natural and architectural) shapes the ways in which we parse our world and our selves.  We wll also be sharing the experience of transferring place: from the familiar, traveling to the new and unknown.

My plan:  each day I will choose a comment by one of the students or my colleague to muse over, accompanying it with an image to provoke response.  Let’s see how this goes!

Stay tuned!

The gull is reborn

The new version

the old version

the old version

How lovely to refresh the gull that hangs on our front porch.  We were enchanted by him when we first visited the house and while I am not a huge fan of real gulls, the delightful metal version was a nice touch.  Over the past five years the weather had caused rust and general degradation so it was time to attempt a repainting.  He now glows happily in the autumn light with fresh white, grey, and yellow markings.