Monthly Archives: September 2012

Nicholas Perkins: Bone Dreams – Anglo-Saxon culture and modern imagination

On Tuesday September 25th Old Chigwellian Dr Nicholas Perkins visited the WP. He now teaches English at St Hugh’s College Oxford, and spoke about Old English poetry: what makes it special and different, and how it has inspired writers and poets through the centuries. Using an excellent handout he took us through the principles of the alliterative meter, as well as the heroic subject matter of this oral medium. We read some Beowulf and compared the Old English text of The Wanderer with Auden’s Old-English-style updated version. We then moved, through Tolkien, to Heaney, where we focused on how he used his experience of Old English poetry to cut through the English/Irish antithesis of his Northern-Irish upbringing when writing about the the “Troubles”. And finally some riddles.
Overall a scholarly, clear and wide-ranging illustration of the powerful insights we can get from a chronologically long look at poetic culture.

Nigel Warburton: Moral Luck – an Oxymoron?

On Tuesday September 11th we were lucky to have with us Bernard Williams’ widow Patricia, as well as the well-known philosopher Nigel Warburton, who spoke to the WP on “Moral Luck: an Oxymoron?”. Nigel’s point was that we often surprise ourselves by blaming people for being unlucky: his main example was that of a speeding driver who runs someone over – the driver is surely unlucky if someone runs out in front of her, and yet we feel she deserves a harsher sentence than if she’d been lucky and no one had been hurt. We somehow feel that the harm done by one’s actions ought to feature in the calculation of a fair punishment, regardless of the amount of control the person had over their actions. It was a really clear and interesting presentation, and Nigel was particularly impressed with the contributions from the younger pupils, which he said were better than those of many undergraduates. The conversation continued into the evening.

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