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Writing Arabic

Oxford students have helped to put on a multi-lingual poetry writing workshop at Oxford Spires Academy.

Pupils at the state secondary school in East Oxford were encouraged to express themselves through poetry in different languages.

The workshop was a collaboration between Oxford University’s Creative Multilingualism research project and Oxford Spires Academy’s poetry hub. It was led by award-winning Iraqi poet, Adnan Al-Sayegh, who has lived in exile since 1996 and been based in the UK since 2004.

‘One of the main aims of the Creative Multilingualism project is to show that the linguistic diversity in UK schools, and the UK in general, has tremendous potential both in terms of fostering productive communication across cultural groups, and in terms of creative thinking and writing,’ says Professor Katrin Kohl, director of the project.

‘These workshops encourage students to be creative in their own language and across languages.’

32 languages are spoken by children at Oxford Spires Academy, and the majority do not have English as their first language.

Students from Syria, Algeria, Tanzania, Pakistan and Sudan heard Mr Al-Sayegh speak about the importance of poetry, which he considers to be a basic human need.

He described how poetry is not restricted to the written word but is found in music and on the street, with the power to build bridges between people, as having a poetic heritage is something shared by all cultures.

A more detailed summary can be found here.

Hadrian's Villa

The first of Oxford University’s Slade Lectures for 2017 will be held tomorrow (18 January).

The Slade Lectures are annual lectures about art history. This year’s speaker is Caroline van Eck, who was appointed as Cambridge University’s first established professor of the history of art in October 2016.

Her public lectures will be held every Wednesday at 5pm in the Mathematical Institute on Oxford’s Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, between 18 January and 8 March.

'These lectures, with their starting point in artworks held here in Oxford in the Ashmolean Museum, promise to be intellectually enlivening as well as visually rich, and will be of interest to anyone who cares about how objects work their effects on the people who collect and view them,’ says Craig Clunas, Professor of the History of Art at the University of Oxford.

‘I am looking forward to these public and open lectures immensely, and look forward too to welcoming their audience to a highly stimulating series.'

The title of the lecture series will be ‘the material presence of absent antiquities: collecting excessive objects and the revival of the past’.

The Slade Lectures were founded in 1869 after a bequest from the art collector Felix Slade in 1869.

John Ruskin gave the first series of eight public lectures in 1870. In his inaugural lecture he announced that he was setting up the Ruskin School of Drawing, which is now the Ruskin School of Art.

For art history fans, here is Professor van Eck with a preview of this year's lectures:

'What happens when we consider the great changes that transformed the European art world around 1800 not, as is usual, from the perspective of the human actors or the institutions involved but from that of the objects, their presence, agency and materiality?

Starting from the outsize candelabra Piranesi made from Roman fragments excavated at Hadrian's Villa, two of which are now in the Ashmolean Museum, this year the Slade Lectures will trace the issues of authenticity, agency, and living presence these truly excessive objects raise, as well as the anthropological and psychological ramifications of the intense emotional investment by patrons, artists and collectors in Graeco-Roman objects.

Starting from the biographies of these candelabra and related artefacts, these Lectures will argue that a material turn took place in the decades around 1800 that affected both making and collecting art, as well as the origins of the major European museums.'

The full list of lectures is available here.

Derek Parfit

Derek Parfit, Emeritus Senior Research Fellow at All Souls College, who has died aged 74, was a celebrated philosopher. His book Reasons and Persons was described by the political theorist Alan Ryan as “close to a work of genius”.

He studied Modern History at Balliol College, graduating in 1964, and returned to Oxford after a few years at Harvard, to take up a Prize Fellowship at All Souls College. He remained at All Souls for the rest of his academic career.

Parfit’s research concerned personal identity, morality, and our obligations to future generations, and his two great works are Reasons and Persons, published in 1984, and On What Matters, published in three volumes between 2011 and 2017.

His first paper, ‘Personal Identity’, was published in 1971, and contained the first outline of a theory of identity that diminished the importance of the “self” as a single, enduring thing. Instead, he argued that physical and psychological continuity are what is important to a person’s identity.

In 1995, he told the journal Cogito that “what interests me the most are those metaphysical questions whose answers seem to be relevant — or to make a difference — to what we have reason to care about and to do, and to our moral beliefs.”

He was a Visiting Professor of Philosophy at New York University, Harvard University and Rutgers University. In 2014 he was awarded the Rolf Schock Prize for his “groundbreaking contributions” to philosophy. He was also an accomplished photographer. He is survived by his wife, the philosopher Janet Radcliffe Richards, who is a Distinguished Research Fellow at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics.

Averil Cameron

A gallery of potraits of great Oxford classicists has been installed at the University's Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies.

The portraits, which include Dame Averil Cameron, Gilbert Murray, Anna Morpugo Davies and Sir Fergus Millar, can now be viewed by members of the public in the building on St Giles' in Oxford.

There are images of 32 classicists in total - 28 are photographs and four are oil paintings.

‘These portraits, along with the current exhibition of the Garima Gospels, are part of our aim to brighten up the Classics Faculty’s building and invite people in to look around,’ says Mai Musié of the Classics Faculty.

‘The gallery not only provides a history of Classics at Oxford, but it also celebrates the contributions of many female classical scholars whose work has often not been fully recognised outside their areas of specialism,’ says Professor Fiona Macintosh, Curator of the Ioannou Centre.


A long-lost song by English composer George Butterworth has been rediscovered at the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries, a century after his death in the trenches.

The three-page score is a musical setting of a short festive poem by Robert Bridges, beginning with the words Crown winter with green. It is believed to be the only surviving copy of this Butterworth composition.

It was found among a group of uncatalogued music manuscripts which were transferred from the library in Oxford University's Music Faculty to the Bodleian's Weston Library.

The festive find is particularly special because the body of Butterworth’s surviving work is relatively small. Butterworth (1885-1916) was one of the most promising English composers of his generation, but his life was cut short when, at the age of 31, he was killed at the Battle of the Somme in World War I.

Before going off to war he destroyed all of his music which he thought not worthy of preserving. His few surviving works, which include his song settings of AE Housman’s poems from A Shropshire Lad and an orchestral idyll The Banks of Green Willow, are considered masterpieces.

The newly-discovered song has three verses and the lyrics speak of Christmas cheer. It begins with the words ‘Crown winter with green, And give him good drink To physic his spleen …’ and ends with the lines ‘And merry be we This good Yuletide.’ Butterworth’s later music often drew inspiration from English folk music and traditions. He wrote the musical setting for this poem in the style of a drinking song, for voice and piano. 

It is not known how the manuscript came to be in the Bodleian Libraries. One possibility is that Butterworth’s father, Sir Alexander Kaye Butterworth, may have passed it on to Sir Hugh Allen, who was a great friend of the composer from his days as an undergraduate at the University of Oxford. Allen was Heather Professor of Music at Oxford from 1918 until his death in 1946, after which his collection of books and music was incorporated into the University’s Music Faculty Library, which is now part of the Bodleian Libraries. It is possible that the song was among these papers but its significance was not noticed at the time.

‘The song’s musical and technical shortcomings suggest that it is probably one of Butterworth’s earlier pieces, possibly dating from his school or student days, which would have been in the early years of the 20th century,’ said Martin Holmes, Alfred Brendel Curator of Music, who rediscovered the manuscript at the Bodleian.

‘As a song, Crown winter with green may not be a masterpiece, in the way that Butterworth’s later Housman songs undoubtedly are, but it can perhaps be seen as a small step on the path towards his musical maturity.'

The manuscript score of Butterworth’s Crown Winter with Green will be on public display in the Bodleian’s Weston Library from Wednesday 14 December to Sunday 18 December, 10am – 5pm (11am-5pm on Sunday). The display will be accompanied by a listening post where visitors can hear a recording of the song.

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