Ottoline Online: the NCH academic blog

Recommended reads from our academics

Five of our academics suggest their favourite summer reads.

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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.

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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Shakespeare got to (co-)writing a play about the monarchs of his place and day was Henry VIII, and that was six decades out of date.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.

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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.

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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.

The Many Faces of Intelligence (23 May 2017)

Intelligence manifests itself in a variety of ways. This panel will discuss the many faces of intelligence – whether natural or artificial – from both scientific and philosophical points of view.

At the Ottoline Club

“Torture and Fiction”, a talk by Dr. Catherine Brown, Senior Lecturer in English and Head of the English Faculty In the United States and some of its allies, the years since 2001 have seen major changes in policy and attitudes regarding torture. Torture has been more openly advocated, and its mode of representation in various media has decidedly altered. Catherine’s current writing, impelled by these changes, considers the manifold relations between torture and fiction.

Upcoming: Why Literature Matters

Professor Greg Currie, Professor Bernard Harrison, Dr Penny Pritchard, Sir Roger Scruton and Lesley Chamberlain will each voice their views on whether and how literature matters, and particularly whether it matters to the understanding of human psychology and morality, or whether such things are better left to 'specialists'. There will then be 30 minutes of discussion between panelists, and the final 30 minutes will be open to reactions from the floor.

Sebastian Ille, Lecturer in Economics, New College of the Humanities — The public vote on Brexit has left many flabbergasted and rekindled the media discussion about a more direct and decentralised democratic process. Those against referenda essentially claim that a representative democracy is better placed to make decisions on complex matters of state, while being less susceptible to demagogues or “fake news”. Supporters of referenda suggest that elections are subject to gerrymandering, while representatives are only bound by incomplete contracts, thus face the same demagogic forces and their own personal ambition for power. Furthermore, according to them referenda strengthen voters’ interest, increase turnout, and acceptance of results. In the end, isn't an individual more apt to express their intentions and preferences than a representative?

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