As soon as I saw the Library Court – two levels of rooms clustered around a central courtyard, with only thin curtains blocking a direct view into one another’s rooms – I was reminded of Bentham’s panopticon model prison. Thus, ‘The Panopticon’ has become the nickname of our shared space.
Two more Canadian law students joined us in Library Court around 2:30 today, after the rest of us shared lunch in the MCR. One is from Ontario, the other from Montreal. The young woman from Ontario, Abra (Joelle Faulkner), was being aided in the process of moving in by yet another Canadian, the captain of the women’s hockey team. It’s quite astonishing to be in a residence in a foreign country where, so far, five out of the seven residents are Canucks. The process of collegiate population remains a very exciting one.
I did actually manage to spend some time in the Wadham College library. Somewhat disappointingly, there is no political science of international relations section. It will therefore be more of a place where reading and work can be done than an actual resource for me. Still, it’s a nice thing to have immediately downstairs and open 24 hours a day. Given the astonishing amount of reading in my program, I have the feeling that libraries will become a frequent haunt.
I finished The Metaphysical Club this afternoon, a book that certainly wandered extensively between disciplines, time periods, and different lives. Not having much knowledge about the people and times presented, it was difficult to follow. Nonetheless, I think it was quite worthwhile. I learned quite a bit about things like jurisprudential theory and railway strikes during the period following the American Civil War. Likewise, it included much that was interesting about the nature of education and academia, as well as the purpose and usefulness of both.
The discussion of tolerance, and its connection with the philosophical doctrine of pragmatism as explored by Holmes, James, Peirce, and Dewey, seems particularly relevant today. As during the cold war, democratic societies are struggling to determine a mechanism for balancing pluralism (in culture and ideas) with the need to respond to an external ideological threat. The parallel is inexact, but the concerns are the same.
After finishing The Metaphysical Club, I took a brisk walk from Wadham College to Folly Bridge, by means of as many alleys and small streets as I could manage. I then made my way back up to the college more directly, along the road that passes the entrance to the Christ Church quad and the Oxford museum. Upon returning to the Panopticon, I spoke with Tristan over Skype for a while before repeating nearly the same walk with Nora in darkness, taking more than four hours instead of less than one. Judging by comments on the last entry, I failed spectacularly to express the overall character of my conversations with her. The disagreements to which I made reference are not an impediment to discourse, but rather the basis of a profitable one. While elements of her thinking are quite different from my own, there is nonetheless a considerable extent to which these discussions are the foundation of my only substantial relationship in Oxford so far.
While walking back to Wadham the second time, I had my first experience with one of the notorious Oxford kebab vans, from which I purchased a large box of vinegar-soaked chips for £1.50. Having missed our increasingly-traditional shared dinner in the MCR due to my first walk, it was a welcome correction.
I now have my schedule for what is called 0th week, or freshers’ week. It includes plenty of orientations from the college, university, and department. It also features a great deal of social content: notably a school uniform bop (dance) on Friday, October 7th. Another useful fact I’ve discovered is that, even though the Wadham Library has no IR section, they do have one of the recommended pre-readings for my M.Phil course. I will go and have a look at it tomorrow, as well as ferrying some new documents to Joanna Coryndon, having yet more passport sized photographs printed for the college, and trying again to open a bank account.