Ottoline Online: the NCH academic blog

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?

At the Ottoline Club

"The Principled Argument for Using the Royal Prerogative to Exit the European Union", a talk by Stuart Goosey, Visiting Lecturer in Law — Just three weeks after the Supreme Court gave its judgment on the case of Miller v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Stuart’s talk reviewed some of the issues raised, and prompted a many-faceted discussion. He sided with the minority of the judges, offering what was in part a legal argument about the constitutional questions which the Court addressed and in part an argument concerning democratic principle. Thanks to this wide-ranging approach, and the clear stance which Stuart took, there followed a rich and intensely thought-provoking hour of conversation.

By Dr Peter Maber, Lecturer in English, NCH — The Lonely Londoners (1956), by the Trinidad-born author Sam Selvon, depicts the lives of the ‘Windrush Generation’, the West Indian immigrants who came to Britain after the Second World War, taking up the British government on their promise of jobs. The London they discover could not be further from the golden city of their imagination. The hostile climate and attitudes they encounter create a different ‘kind of unrealness about London’. Selvon’s characters try out various survival strategies: Harris adopts the manners of an English gent, and ‘plays ladeda’, dropping the names of lords and ladies; while Henry Oliver, alias Sir Galahad, newly arrived from Trinidad, ‘plays boldface’, pretending he knows it all, only to be overcome by feelings of ‘loneliness and fright’.

At the Ottoline Club

“From 1066 to 1095: Family Traditions, Conquests, and the Appeal of the First Crusade”, a talk by Dr. Lars Kjaer, Senior Lecturer in Medieval History — In the intimate setting of the Thinkery, there was a good turnout to see Lars swim against the tide of recent interpretations of the First Crusade.

At the Ottoline Club

“Mind the Gap: Social Affairs between the Micro and Macro”, a talk by Dr. Sebastian Ille, Lecturer in Economics — With the help of on-screen simulations more sophisticated than anything previously seen at the Ottoline Club, Sebastian gave a vivid introduction to some recent developments in economists’ methods.

By Dr Catherine Brown, Head of Faculty & Senior Lecturer in English — When Russians and Britons discuss literature – especially British fiction, especially if written since the Lady Chatterley trial of 1960 – a difference often emerges in attitudes towards sex. Russians, it seems, prefer sex to be done but not described, known but not displayed – which is one reason for the Russian distaste of Gay Pride marches, which the West misinterprets as principally homophobic.

NCH is Hiring: Art History, Law and Human Geography positions now open

New teaching positions are now open at New College of the Humanities. NCH has a world-class team of professors with a reputation for academic excellence, supported by an enthusiastic and talented team of teaching staff.

By Dr Catherine Brown, Head of Faculty & Senior Lecturer in English — I am rereading Graham Greene’s 1966 novel The Comedians, which I first read as an earnest fifteen-year-old member of Amnesty International. Then, it worked along with Amnesty’s literature to drive a stake of horror deep into my mind. A proxy sense of living under the worst of dictatorships has remained with me ever since, and helps to motivate my current work on torture and fiction.

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