Autumnal Oxford


in Books and literature, Daily updates, Oxford

Leaves blowing in the university parks

Today was a gusty day – the fall wind tore yellowed leaves from the trees and change was in the air. I’ve always felt thrilled and empowered by windy days – they remind me how the world is not only capable of being changed but, at times, practically bursting with desire to do so. Even as you are being blown around, you are reminded inescapably that you have a will and the capacity to make a difference. That was particularly evident after our excellent lecture with Jennifer Welsh, when eighteen members of the M.Phil program met to discuss the matter of salvaging the quantitative methods course. Sitting around in the lounge beside the DPIR, I felt like part of the council of demons in Book II of Paradise Lost.

No! let us rather choose,
Armed with Hell-flames and fury, all at once
O’er Heaven’s high towers to force resistless way,
Turning our tortures into horrid arms
Against the torturer; when, to meet the noise
Of his almighty engine, he shall hear
Infernal thunder, and, for lightning, see
Black fire and horror shot with equal rage
Among his Angels and his throne itself
Mixed with Tartarean sulphur and strange fire,
His own invented torments. 

We will issue a joint declaration to the department tomorrow. On a related note, Tristan is apparently now on strike, in his capacity as a research assistant at York. He is not, it seems, terribly keen on the idea. Hopefully, it will not last too long.

Jennifer Welsh, according to many people who spoke to me before my departure, is the Canadian superstar in politics at Oxford. I spoke with her for a while after her lecture about how many of the problems of political theory evaporate once you have a normative determination. Once you get beyond theory for its own sake, you can pick and choose the useful bits of all the theories out there, as a means of understanding the world and advancing certain goals. I look forward to how she will be heavily involved with the core seminar next term, when it changes focus to contemporary debates in international relations theory.

Her lecture outlined the key elements of neo-realism, reo-liberal institutionalism, and constructivism as general areas within IR theory, as well as the critiques they make of one another. She was an engaging and effective speaker who made her points comprehensibly and with skill. Overall, it was a reminder of the reasons for which the Oxford IR program is really quite excellent overall. She has encouraged us to read the Sage Politics Text on International Relations, which may end up being the first book I buy for myself in Oxford.

In the evening, I went to my first lecture for the Professional Training in the Social Sciences course which, according to the Notes of Guidance, we are all meant to be taking. As it happens, it was delayed and poorly publicized. Only three of us were actually in attendance. The session focused on professional ethics in social science research, so it struck me as particularly ironic that it took place in the Said School of Business. As the lecturer explained, most people interested in business think that Ethics is a county in England.

Tonight, I am going to take a bit of a break: see whether I can find something good and non-scholarly to read, generally relax, and go to sleep early. Tomorrow, I will get started on the readings for next week’s core seminar though, having presented last week (however badly), much of the pressure is off.

PS. No animals or gargoyles passed near my camera today, but I am keeping my eyes out for them.

PPS. I am eyeing the signed Philip Pullman editions of Paradise Lost at Blackwell’s with ever-diminishing restraint.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous November 3, 2005 at 10:50 pm

Regarding your PPS – go on, Satan, how can you possibly resist? On the other hand, what would Danielson say?

Yours truly,

Chaos (aka, Moloch, Belial, Mammon, Beelzebub, and Sin)

Milan November 4, 2005 at 10:08 am

Amazement seized
All the host of Heaven; back they recoiled afraid
At first, and called me Sin, and for a sign
Portentous held me

Anonymous November 4, 2005 at 10:42 am

That’s an awfully combative sequence to quote. My sentiments run more along the lines of:

War, therefore, open or concealed, alike
My voice dissuades; for what can force or guile
With Him, or who deceive His mind, whose eye
Views all things at one view? He from Heaven’s highth
All these our motions vain sees and derides,
Not more almighty to resist our might
Than wise to frustrate all our plots and wiles.
Shall we, then, live thus vile—the race of Heaven
Thus trampled, thus expelled, to suffer here
Chains and these torments? Better these than worse
By my advice; since fate inevitable
Subdues us, and omnipotent decree,
The Victor’s will.

B November 4, 2005 at 6:25 pm

Without all those cross-linkages relating to the bloggers’ gathering, your Truth Laid Bear ranking is plummeting again – not that it’s a thing you should actively try to boost. Personally, I like you best as a crunchy crustacean.

Ben November 4, 2005 at 11:49 pm

Keep us updated on thos Said things. I was half-tempted to go myself, but decided I had better things to do…

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