I would like to introduce myself: I am Dr. Sally Bayley and I have been running an interdisciplinary summer course in Oxford for six years. The course is the highlight of my teaching year. Over the years, the course has attracted several committed returnees, including teachers, retired doctors, independent learners, sixth formers, undergraduates and graduates from all walks of life.
This coming summer, I am delighted to be able to collaborate with Paula Byrne and Jonathan Bate in bringing this exciting, interdisciplinary course to Worcester College as part of their ReLit programme.
In introducing this course I wanted to give you a sense of the student experience. Here is a testimony from an undergraduate student who took the course last year. The focus of the course was the literature, art, culture and politics of the last American century:
“Through the eight-days we examined and discussed photographs, diaries, sculptures, paintings, rock music, folk music, classical music… It was great to have the opportunity to interact with such a wide range of materials, and learn how to take the skills learnt in one area and use them to access and engage with another. Although challenging, and at times hard-hitting, (the day looking at post-9/11 rhetoric stands out in particular) the week was extremely enjoyable. We had three sessions a day: one before lunch; one after; and one in the evening. These evening sessions provided the perfect chance to get to know the other people on the course in a more informal setting. Working in such an intense environment all day, we all benefited from the much more relaxed environments of events such as music and drama performances.
The group itself was one of the best things about the week. Despite all coming from very different backgrounds – both different nations and different generations – by all working together so closely, we formed a very tight group. We even shared some of our own creative work with each other.
What I was most struck by throughout the week was the huge scope and depth of the conversations we were having. We were able to negotiate our way through topics which were, at times, difficult, even divisive, yet in a way which managed to comfortably hold the space between challenging and accessible. It was a fantastic way to take the criticism and interpretation I’d been working on in my first year at Oxford and put it into discussions outside of my course.”
I look forward to meeting you all at Worcester College next summer!