It looks as though introductions are in order, but I'll keep mine brief (at least about myself): I am the Director of the Shimer-in-Oxford Program for this Spring, taking over from David Shiner who led the Program last fall.
But really I'd like to introduce the Shimer in Oxford Program itself. I don't think you've heard much from David and his crew about the Program. But that's likely because they were all very very busy!
Here's a hint of just how busy (and stimulated!) the Program's students were last fall, a few of the titles of tutorial courses Shimer students were taking: Gender Studies, Voice, Shakespeare, Cosmology, Creative Writing, Christian Heresies, Calculus 2, Evolutionary Psychology, Jung, Mindfulness Therapy, Dramatalurgical Sociology and Game Theory. In fact, there were nineteen students doing almost thirty tutorials over here last fall, the biggest number we've had in decades. This term we're running a few less tutorials, but still a bunch with eighteen students in the program.
An Oxford (or Cambridge = Oxbridge) tutorial runs basically thus: you receive roughly 50 - 150 pages of reading a week (could be three or four times that much if you're studying novels) about which you prepare an essay of between 1500-2000 words (6-8 pages) and then go see your tutor, who examines you about the week's reading and your essay for about an hour. Then they give you the next week's reading and questions to answer and . . .
So, it's a program that a past participant likened to academic "boot camp." It's safe to say that Shimer students work harder than most American students who come here to study for a term, and probably a good deal harder than most Oxford undergraduates. That's because Shimer students' two tutorials last ten weeks (everyone else's usually last eight, and visiting Americans typically do just one and a half tutorials in all). And our students are also taking a course with me (some of them the capstone IS 5-6 sequence, which if you look into the reading list, is basically the greatest hits of the western world: a lot of reading). And occasionally they feel the need to remind me how hard they're working, like recently when I assigned a bit too much Charles Saunders Peirce in Humanities 4, for example.
Before closing (more soon), here are a couple of photos of our induction into Bodleian Library about a month ago. The Bodleian's huge collections support much of the tutorial work. It's the original copyright library (the model for the Library of Congress, for example), meaning they get a copy of every book published in the U.K., amounting to about 5-6000 new items a week. The induction requires all Library card holders to recite the following promise (that's Trillian signing her new card after reciting it):
I hereby undertake not to remove from the Library, nor to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document or other object belonging to it or in its custody; not to bring into the Library, or kindle therein, any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the Library; and I promise to obey all rules of the Library.
These rules have been in force for a little over 400 years: the rule that books don't leave the premises was upheld even on a request for a volume by King Charles I (though of course that turned out to be among the least of his problems in getting folks to cooperate). The prohibition against smoking was not in the original Latin oath, as tobacco was only becoming a craze as the Library began building its collections. Meanwhile, however, the prohibition against fires in general meant for chilly studying, as the libraries used not to be heated because of the risk.
However, all this said, the Library's now considering lending books out, which has caused a stir (and which also may have to do in part with the fact that Bodley's Librarian is an American - and a woman - for the first time ever. She's apparently considering some other relatively radical changes to its operations).
Here's another shot of Trillian (examining some cracks in the paneling) just to give you a better sense of the room. It's the Library's Convoction House, designed to serve in part as a parliamentary chamber, which it did in fact few times briefly under Charles II when it couldn't meet in London (though he and Parliament had basically smoothed things over). Otherwise, it's where the Board (Convocation) of the University's alumni association meets.
Coming up: what some Shimer students do with all their time off.