August 4th-9th 2019 sees the annual OxNet Access Summer School take place at Pembroke College, University of Oxford. Under the theme Horizons, the scheme brings together all of the hub schools within the OxNet scheme, from London, the North-West, and the North-East, and the varied networks that they represent. These include the four strands that make up the summer school: the North-West Science Network, the Humanities and Social Sciences course, Philosophy and World Religions, and, for the North-East, the Ordered Universe. The strands run separate activities but come together for talks, lectures, optional subjects and tutorials, to eat in common, and to enjoy evening concerts, visits within Oxford, and plenty of individual and group study. All in all the school tries to replicate the experience of undergraduate study, to challenge and encourage the students from the schools during their time in Oxford in all of the activities in which they are engaged.
The Ordered Universe strand runs with school students from the North East (from the Southmoor Academy Hub: Southmoor itself, Park View, St Roberts Newminster, and St Anthony’s), and other students within the OxNet scheme, from the London networks in particular. Activities planned follow on from the seminar series and the Durham Easter school, which featured an introduction to some of the individual disciplines represented in Ordered Universe, and then the world of medieval manuscript studies, modern physics and cosmology, and a brief foray into Grosseteste’s writings, this year his short treatise On Colour. In Oxford for the past week, we have been exploring three treatises: On the Impressions of the Elements, On the Six Differentiae, and On the Rainbow.
These treatises, on bubbles, water and the mingling of the elements (according to Grosseteste’s understanding of the world), on the question of the horizon and how place is to defined, and on the rainbow, formed the basis of collaborative reading sessions. Everyone contributed fully, and it was a wonderful experience to watch how the students confronted, grasped, and debated Grosseteste’s ideas, relating them to their own learning, science- and humanities-oriented, and asking questions of everything. The inter-relation of his thought, and the importance of reading the whole treatise slowly and collaboratively, came through very strongly in the sessions. And, from a research perspective, insights which were fresh and new, even to those of us who have read the texts several times. A particular task was to try to draw Grosseteste’s description of the rainbow – a task familiar to Ordered Universe researchers, and still not entirely resolved!
Around the collaborative reading sessions are talks, lectures, and other activities. Giles Gasper opened the school with a talk on Horizons – the importance of university study, and the world of medieval science as analysed by the Ordered Universe project. This ended with a showing of the Projection Studio’s Horizon as performed at the Light-Up Poole Festival in February 2019. Further talks have included Joshua Harvey on Grosseteste and experiment, focused on the treatise On the Generation of Sounds, and will include Giles on medieval universities, and working outside academe, in particular working with Ross Ashton and Karen Monid of the Projection Studio. The students on the Ordered Universe strand also get the opportunity to experience the visualisations from the project, and, in their own groups, to work together to produce posters for the final part of the summer school. In this they are aided by the team members present, including Tom Henderson, guiding reading and thinking, and providing patient help!
It is wonderful to be back in Pembroke College and to be around and engaged with the whole of the Access Scheme. Our considerable thanks to Peter Claus, OxNet Director, Felix Slade for putting everything together, all of the OxNet tutors and leaders, especially Claire Ungley from Southmoor Academy, and the College for its customary hospitality and openness. We’ll let you know what the students thought – the experience so far has been excellent. A firm reminder of the benefits of collaboration at all levels!