OxNet-Ordered Universe Summer School 2021

Welcome to the OxNet North-East/Ordered Universe Summer School for Access Week 2021. 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 Constellations, 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,o and a fundamental question: what is heat, and its effects.


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 Constellations will run as  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 Access Week is co-directed by Dr Sarah Gilbert and Mr Matthew Clayton (Durham university) with additional support from Walker Christian (Durham University), Claire Ungley, our OxNet NE co-ordinator, and from the Ordered Universe Drs Sigbjørn Sønnesyn (Oslo) 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.


Students who are enrolled in the OxNet-Ordered Universe Access Week 2021 course will receive an in-depth programme in the first live webinar (Monday 2nd August, 11am UK time).

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. Students will complete short answer questions – 200 words per answer – try to summarise and be succinct – as well as a more extended piece which can be presented either as a poster or as an essay to reflect different forms of assessment common at university. 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. Claire, Sarah, and Matthew, 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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