Sunday, July 25, 2010

AGTO Day Six: All the Other Stuff

Friday was a very exciting day indeed, because Friday, instead of having our usual afternoon speaker, we went to the Bodleian Library. I was incredibly excited about this. My department head had gone last summer, and said it was amazing. And it sure was. My group also had a fabulous guide, Marie, who told us all kinds of fabulous stories. The picture to the left is what it looks like from the outside. Well, that's one of the buildings. It looks like a castle, right?
We started out in the Divinity School, which is this huge hall with incredible carvings in the stone. The Divinity School, I'm sure you'll be interested to hear, was used as the hospital wing for the Harry Potter movies. Marie told us all about the history of the hall, and the years and years and years it took to complete it. It took so long, in fact, that the original stone carver died before he finished it. The university (Bodleian is of course part of Oxford University) got someone new to finish it, but they wanted it done quickly and a lot cheaper since they were out of money. This is why the fourth wall in the hall is a lot less fancy than the other three. On the ceiling are the coat of arms for all the people who donated money.

We went through a door in the back of the Divinity School and were in a room that looked like a mini version of Parliament. This was where all the scholars would gather. It's not used for that purpose anymore, as there are far too many scholars now to fit in the room. Fun fact: the space between the benches on either side of the room is carefully measured to be a swords length, plus an arm length, plus six inches, so no one could stab someone across the aisle from their seat. There's also a small courtroom connected, where naughty students would be tried for misdoings.
Because we were in a special tour group, we got to walk right past the sign that says "no admittance" (it's so satisfying doing that) and go upstairs to the amazing, awesome, I-wish-so-much-I-could-have-taken-pictures-because-OMG, Duke Humfrey Library, which is above the Divinity School. This caused problems when the weight of all the books caused the walls to buckle. Luckily they had Christopher Wren, who reinforced the walls with steel beams and added buttresses. It was his first job.
But the Duke Humfrey Library. Old books. Really, really old. Some of them have the dates on their spines, I saw one from 1505. You can't touch any of them of course. It's still a working library, but you have to request what you want and the librarian brings it to you. Of course you can't take anything out. But it's better than it was. As Marie explained, the books used to be chained to the shelves and you'd have to stand the whole time you were using them. I wish I could show you a picture of it. I bought myself a post card of it, since pictures weren't allowed up there. Would it help if I told you that the Duke Humfrey Library is the library in Harry Potter? So go watch the movie and pay close attention to the library scenes. It was just so amazing to be there.
Marie next took us down underneath the library. It's huge. It goes all the way down and across the street. We saw the conveyor belt, built in the 1930s, that is still used to send books back to the floors they came from. Shelves and shelves of every single Oxford University student theses. All the old collections of newspapers from like the 1700s. So cool. Also, we decided, the catacombs of the Bodleian Library would be a prime place to film a horror movie. Why has this not been done yet? Old creaky conveyor belt, not much light, gigantic old books, long halls for running down while screaming. A million other movies have been filmed at the Bodleian, why not?
In conclusion, it was awesome. A highlight of the trip for sure. The people who were in The Library and the Academy seminar got to spend some more time at the Bodleian and ACTUALLY TOUCH STUFF. I am quite jealous. For a more complete history of the Bodleian, check out their web site.
After tea poet Dr. Helen Kidd was the speaker. She kind of did a poetry workshop with us, where we sort of wrote a poem together. I know, I'm being very clear. I was really tired, and not in the best place for writing a collaborative poem. She had us write down common household objects, and then feelings. Then connect two of them, like "Jealousy is like a sponge," and build a poem around that. Then she used a singing bowl (one of those bowls you put water in and tap and it makes sort of a musical sound) and had us write whatever imagery came to mind. The problem was, I wasn't getting any imagery, I was just getting quiet, which was lovely, but not what she was looking for. She combined all the imagery together to make a kind of poem. The problem was it didn't mean anything. I can see how it could be a good way to get students more comfortable with writing poetry.
Dr. Kidd was the only speaker we had today, because after dinner we had a theater trip. There were a couple different Shakespeare options. Most people went and saw The Tempest, but I've never really been a fan of The Tempest so I went with Taming of the Shrew. It was being done outside at Magdalen College, which, I learned after embarrassing myself, is pronounced Maudlin. Stupid silent "g."
It was entertaining, although kind of amateurish. I did not like how Kate was being played. The woman chose to play her like she was actually crazy, which she was not. Taming of the Shrew is really an awful play, unless you chose to believe that Kate wasn't really broken and forced to submit, but rather she figured out what to do to get what she wanted. That's what I'll believe.


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