Ottoline Online: the NCH academic blog

A Shade on the Sea Floor: an Interview with Jaya Savige about Derek Walcott (1930-2017)

Jaya Savige (JS): Yes, I’d just read the news of Walcott’s death when we saw each other at Trevor Nunn’s guest lecture [on directing Shakespeare], and you’re right, I was unusually moved, for one specific reason: I just so happened to have been obsessively reading and rereading a poem of his called The Gulf, on the train to and from work that week, and even earlier that day. I wasn’t aware he was close to passing, so when I saw the news on the BBC I was a little shocked by the fact that I’d just been reading him, had been reading him in his last days, and maybe even in his final moments. When I saw you I was still in the first stages of processing this coincidence.

Reform and Revolution: 1517 and 1917

The autumn of 2017 sees the anniversaries, 500th and `100th, of two of the greatest and most important events in human history: the Protestant Reformation launched by Martin Luther in 1517 and the Russian Revolution of 1917. Both witnessed intellectual protest against the faults of an existing system ignite widespread social indignation.

There are, I find, many advantages to being born relatively late for your generation. Your parents know pretty much what they are about; they grow old when you still have a strong arm with which to support them; and, most importantly, they connect you to a bigger historical span.

Where Anti-Trumpism is Getting it Wrong; or, My Enemy’s Enemy is Not Above Reproach; or, Ends Do Not Justify Means

It is with some trepidation that I blog for the first time about Donald Trump. It is partly because I feel such trepidation that I feel the need to do so. Donald Trump is a gifted demagogue, an ungifted, inexperienced politician, and an ignorant, under-principled President of the United States. In some of his long-held desires, and some of those produced temporarily by the influence of advisers, he threatens and damages individuals, peace, and nature around the world. The United States and all other countries would be much better off with a much better President, and I hope that one is elected to office as soon as possible.

Recommended reads from our academics

Five of our academics suggest their favourite summer reads.

At the Ottoline Club

“Winning the War for Democracy: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Black Civil Rights during the Second World War”, a talk by Dr. Olly Ayers, Lecturer in History and Politics – Olly’s was a talk of many parts: it ranged, in an exemplary way, from large reflections on method and the relations between disciplines to the presentation of some of the findings of a recent research trip of his to the US. There was a highly instructive picture quiz at one point too.

Fakespeare makes good, apart from on Leveson: King Charles III

The closest Shakespeare got to (co-)writing a play about the monarchs of his place and day was Henry VIII, and that was six decades out of date. Three years ago English playwright Mike Bartlett wrote a blank verse play about the fates of kings, and the dalliance of a young Prince Harry with commoners, which was set in the near future. This month it was broadcast as a television film.

At the Ottoline Club

“J S Mill’s Philosophy of History”, a talk by Dr. Callum Barrell, Lecturer in Politics & International Relations. As a colleague whose research interests are decidedly interdisciplinary, Callum duly delivered a talk that straddled the faculties. His main thesis was that John Stuart Mill developed over a period of years a philosophy of history which very much informed his mature political ideas and in particular his proposals for political change.

I am in awe at BBC drama. In the past week I have watched both BBC2’s adaptation of Mike Bartlett’s 2014 play King Charles III, and BBC1’s miseries about the Rochdale child abuse scandal, Three Girls, and have been bowled over by both. But the latter moved me most.

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑