Summer Schools in the making: June beckons

Written by Sarah Ormrod Friday, 23 May 2014 17:00

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Well, the Summer School is in sight! June beckons,and we may well have a sunny 'Bank Holiday' weekend in the UK.

Please note: this is the last week for online enrolments for the International Summer Schools. From 1 June onwards, we ask applicants for the Summer Schools to download an application form and then fax or post it to us.

There will still be another hundred or more applications coming in before the Summer, so if you do not have time to submit your application before the online route closes next weekend, you can simply submit your application in one of those two other ways.

As June beckons, we are putting the finishing touches to the 150+ plenary lecture titles, and I already have a long list of lectures I would really like to hear myself, if timetabling permits. Who – even amongst non-scientists like myself - is not curious enough to want to hear: How to find a planet from your sofa; Human life at the limits – the physiology of exploration; The science of saving Venice or Astronomy: curiosity and the need to know? Who’s not going to be more than a little intrigued by what will be covered in talks on Naughtiness in children’s literature; Grisly cuisine or Shakespeare and savagery? Or more than a little moved by trying to understand - in this year of anniversaries - What did the First World War achieve?

I am drawn to subjects such as (K)night school: the education of the medieval knight; Illuminated manuscripts, or Say no more, roll credits: achieving the perfect film ending. In this first year of the Creative Writing Summer School, I really want to hear the conversations with writers such as Louis de Bernières and Wendy Cope.

But then there are subjects which demand attention: the debate on Is it time to think about engineering the climate? or lectures on Achieving peace in the Middle East; Achieving order: the Ukrainian crisis and the international system; or Go-betweens for Hitler.

I was recently given a book by Daniel James Brown: The Boys in the Boat, about the crew from Seattle who rowed to Olympic victory in Berlin in 1936, which kept me gripped on a long journey, and into which I have dipped eagerly as bedtime reading since. I’m about to finish it, and have been completely drawn in to the worlds it depicts: America in the Depression, the rise of political power in pre-WWII Germany, and the punishing but exhilarating world of competitive rowing. The references to training, stamina, race-plans and, above all, teamwork resonate, of course, at a time when our International Programmes’ team is limbering up for everyone’s arrival and the journey through the seven weeks of Summer Schools.  

The image is of a very different boating kind. Whilst I have always loved boats and water, this book offered a different angle: I now know more about another time and another world, and am reminded that there is always something new to learn. In attending lectures some years ago about cricket, I built on a scant knowledge gleaned only by osmosis, in watching the sport on television with my father, and so will try to hear this year’s talk LBW: a brief introduction to cricket by an academic who’s also giving us a course on the Protestant Reformation! I’m also finding out more than I ever knew about the Hanseatic League, and am keen to hear some of those talks, too.

There are some 150+ plenaries this summer, and most people will get to hear 15 or so as part of their stay. Whilst I shall hear many more in my role as Programme Director for the Interdisciplinary Programme, and as part of the IP team chairing evening talks, the need to focus on all programmes at once means that I will not –alas – be able to have the full immersion that individual Summer School participants enjoy: plenaries, special subject class sessions, evenings, and all those conversations which carry on the debate outside the classroom.

I shall enjoy the plenaries, however, and look forward to hearing about the classroom experience from the perspective of course deliverer and student.

See you soon!

Sarah J Ormrod


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