OxNet-Ordered Universe Summer School 2020

Welcome to the OxNet North-East/Ordered Universe Summer School for Access Week 2020. This would be, in normal circumstances, a week-long experience at Pembroke College, Oxford, with all of the school hubs within the OxNet coming together for different strands of talks, activities, tutorials, and, in the case of the Ordered Universe strand collaborative reading of treatises by Robert Grosseteste prepared by the research group. Under current circumstances this is, understandably, impossible to organise, but we have an online programme as a different way to introduce the style and substance of university teaching, learning, and research. Ordered Universe is very pleased to be leading a strand for the summer school, and to welcoming students from other schemes as well the North-East OxNet cohort.

The theme for the Access Week Summer School is Elemental, and for the Ordered Universe programme we will be looking in detail at two of Grosseteste’s treatises with particular connection to the elements. The first is On Comets which provides his thoughts on the nature and effect of comets, and a critique of other theories to explain comets as a natural phenomenon. The result is quite different to what you might imagine. The second treatise is On the Impressions of the Elements, which deals with water and air in particular, and how they change one from the other using the primary example of bubbles, and a fundamental question: what is heat, and its effects.

To fully contextualise these treatises the Ordered Universe programme starts on Monday 27th July, and we have a week of concentrated reading, getting to grips with medieval science from historical and modern scientific points of view. Our cohort then joins the rest of the Access Week,  from Monday 3rd August, taking part in the wider range of lectures, talks and activities, until the summer school close on Friday 7th August.

Alongside the academic programme we have a series which we have called ‘Be Inspired‘ which features inspiring individuals from the creative arts: a filmmaker, an opera singer, an actor, and sound and light projection artists. Some of these have worked with Ordered Universe, others are contacts within the group. All have made a short film in which they reflect on their careers, their training, and opportunities that came their way – do take the time to listen to them, and, hopefully, to be inspired.

The programme for the Ordered Universe strand of Elemental will run as follows, and is a mixture of pre-recorded material for private study, and live webinars. We have a sequence of materials to guide our study of these two wonderful texts, and a whole team of experts have combined to provide the materials for the course. We’ve also featured shorter films from people we find inspiring from the creative arts sector, talking about their lives and careers. The Ordered Universe is co-directed by Dr Sarah Gilbert and Professor Giles Gasper with additional support from Walker Christian, all of us from Durham, Claire Ungley, our OxNet NE co-ordinator, and from Ordered Universe Drs Sigbjørn Sønnesyn (Durham) and Seb Falk (Cambridge) Professors Brian Tanner (Durham), Tom McLeish (York), and Hannah Smithson (Oxford)and the OxNet team, especially Dr Peter Claus and Felix Slade.


NB – each day has a separate web-page, which is password protected: Claire will let the students know the code for the day’s page, with all of its content and activities, each morning.

Monday 27th July
11.00–12.00 Webinar Welcome (Giles, Sarah, and Walker)
Videos: Brian Tanner, ‘A brief history of comets’; Tom McLeish, ‘A brief history of elements’
Short answer questions and longer essay or poster topics released.
Shorter articles made available.

Tuesday 28th July
13.30–14.30 Webinar on ‘How to Read a Medieval Document‘ (Sarah and Giles)
Treatises available, in English translation: On Comets and On the Impressions of the Elements

Wednesday 29th July
Three videos for closer study of Grosseteste’s treatises:
1. ‘Historical Context for both treatises’ Giles Gasper
2. ‘Intellectual context – On Comets’, Sigbjørn Sønnesyn
3. ‘Intellectual context – On the Impressions of the ElementsSigbjørn Sønnesyn
Short pop-quiz released (multiple-choice questions on the treatises)

Thursday 30th July
Two more videos for closer study of the treatises:
1. ‘Heat rays and water cycle’, Brian Tanner
2. ‘Birds and Mountains’, Giles Gasper
Short pop-quiz released (more multiple-choice questions to sharpen your knowledge of the treatise)

Friday 31st July
15.00–16.00 Webinar: Question & Answer session (Giles and Sarah)
Three wider contextual videos:
1. ‘Where do the Texts fit into the canon’ Giles Gasper
2. ‘Modern History of Comets’ Brian Tanner
3. ‘Medieval Astronomy’, Sarah Gilbert
4. ‘Medieval Scientific Instruments’, Seb Falk
Submission of short answer questions (to Claire in the first instance).

Monday 3rd August
10.00-12.00 Webinar: ‘Collaborative Reading of On Comets and On the Impressions of the Elements‘ (Giles and Sarah)
Return of short answer questions

Tuesday 4th August
As main school: Option Days

Wednesday 5th August
Science Outreach (Hannah), follow guidelines on the main school website, and otherwise Option Days as main school

Thursday 6th August
Admissions Q&A as main school

Friday 7th August
13.30 Webinar final session (Sarah and Giles)
Hand-in of Essay Questions or Posters
Afternoon – as main school, prize-giving and close of school

Assessments: we have designed a process to ensure that we get as much as possible out of Grossteste’s treatises, and to appreciate the need for multiple perspectives and disciplines to interpret the full range of their content and implications. So, we’ll set short answer questions – 200 words per answer: try to summarise and be succinct; as well as more extended piece which can be presented either as a poster or as an essay, to reflect different forms of assessment. In addition the pop quizzes are to sharpen your knowledge of the treatises. The Webinars provide opportunity for general questions, as well as the more specific topics that we’ll lead on.

We hope that you have as much enjoyment from these work packages, and that the activities are challenging and stimulating. Sarah, Claire, and Giles, are available for questions at any time.

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As a taster of where we might have been – a slideshow of Pembroke College and previous summer schools.

Image credit: ‘Inspired’
from Tarassemeniuk / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

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