Tday we took a National Rail train to Oxford, to see the Bodleian Library, one of the oldest university libraries (and the UK’s depository library, witch copies of every British book published), and Christ Church, one of the more literarily and historically significant colleges in Oxford University. I knew very little about Oxford aside from it being the home to several popular British fantasy authors (C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles “Lewis Caroll” Dodson) and a very very old university, and yet despite what I did know it still surprised me what an odd institution the University still is – for all its breadth of scholarly knowledge and great research it remains in many ways as hidebound as those 16th century books on the shelves of the Bodleans’s oldest buildings, at least in terms of maintaining traditions that no longer make much sense, just for their own sake. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though – when much of your campus is Tudor-era or older it really seems almost necessary, paradoxical as that sounds.
The highlights of the visit for me, aside from seeing the mix of old and new that is in many ways a sharper clash than London (where types and ages of buildings tend to cluster more), were mostly related to Stuart Fleming, an awesome older gent who tour guide for Christ Church, and seeing all the sites associated with Alice in Wonderland – a story written for the daughter of the Dean by Charles Dodson, a professor of mathematics at the college, and inspired by the landscape itself.
Of course, another thing was inspired by it, and that’s the movie portrayals of Hogwarts in Harry Potter – parts of which were filmed that. I’ll discuss this more in a podcast tomorrow.