Third day in Oxford! Today began much like yesterday with breakfast in the dining hall. However, our first essays were due by 9am at Magdalen College, so we left breakfast around 8:40 in the company of our OU professor, Dr. Johnson, to deliver our essays. We made our way to the front gate of Magdalen College, where we greeted the porter and delivered our essays to Dr. Robert Douglas-Fairhurst’s “pigeon hole.” Turning that essay in felt like launching a partially-constructed toy boat over the edge of a waterfall: I felt certain it was poor quality, not deserving of the attention of a genuine literary scholar and unable to survive his critique. I turned it in nonetheless and was relieved to be done with it. Now, all that remained was to wait for our tutorial session in the afternoon.
After returning from Magdalen, a group of friends and I gathered our books and headed to the River Cherwell to study and chat. We found a peaceful stretch of lawn under an oak by the river’s edge and stretched out our blankets to lounge, read, and watch the punters navigate the river. We spent an idyllic hour or so both studying and amusing ourselves by watching the punters’ navigation skills (or lack thereof). We even made an adorable new friend, whom Jonathan named Samantha.
After returning to Brasenose for lunch, Elizabeth and I headed to Magdalen College for our first tutorial session. The porter pointed us in the direction of Robert’s office, and we made our way across the majestic courtyards of Magdalen to his office with awe at the grandeur of the college around us. Robert welcomed us warmly into his office, directing us to his sofa and offering us both tea and biscuits. His office was spacious, luminous, and filled with books from floor to ceiling: literature anthologies, classics from the Victorian Era and beyond, works of literary criticism and history, and countless others. Even though I was intimidated by his erudition and embarrassed by the mediocrity of my essay, our tutorial session passed comfortably. Robert made it feel like an interesting conversation rather than a lecture or interrogation. He critiqued our essays, pointing out structural weaknesses and ideas that needed refining, and he also asked probing questions that caused us to think more deeply about ideas we glossed over in our essays. Both Elizabeth and I felt tongue-tied at times and were unsure how to answer his questions, but he guided us through leading questions and helped us see connections and depth of symbolism in the novels that we hadn’t noticed before. All in all, the tutorial went well, and I thought it was a more effective way to spur me to think deeply about what I had read and written than any lecture I had yet attended.
Immediately after our tutorial, Elizabeth and I wandered around Magdalen College and appreciated the incredible beauty of the grounds. Below are some of the highlights, including Magdalen’s very own deer park.