Principal's Blog: 13th February 2024


JB stock photo to use Sept 2021The Runcie Sermon

The Chapel was full to hear the Rev. Fergus Butler-Gallie the Vicar of Charlbury deliver an uplifting Runcie Sermon in memory of Robert Runcie, our alumnus and long serving Archbishop of Canterbury. In a fascinating sermon Rev. Butler-Gallie paid tribute to the spirit of Archbishop Runcie (who amongst others stood up to Margaret Thatcher). He based the sermon on the passage from Kings read earlier in the service in which Elisha taking over the mantle from Elijah said “let me inherit a double share of your spirit”. It was wonderful to have the distinguished writer James Runcie (the Archbishop’s son) with us for the service in honour of his father.

Meetings and events galore

On 31 January I attended part of a wonderful day of events on Italy past present and future organised by Prof Andrea Ruggeri who is sadly leaving us at the end of term. It culminated in two sessions in the Sheldonian Theatre expertly moderated by Bill Emmott, the former Editor of the Economist.

Kirsty Gunn, our terrific Royal Literary Fund Fellow, has been very active in organising events and on 30 January the Amersi Room was packed for “No more stories! An evening of discussion, questions and debate”. This brought together in a fascinating extended conversation Gabriel Josipovici, the celebrated author and critic and Peter McDonald Professor of English at St Hughs. They discussed the state of contemporary fiction and the possibilities for literary complexity in a culture dominated by a desire for outcomes with “finish” and “closure”. There was a lively discussion after the main contributions.

The PPE Society held a meeting on 7 February addressed by Professor Alan Renwick, Professor of British Politics and Deputy Director of the Constitution Unit at University College London. He is also Principal Investigator in the Democracy in the UK after Brexit project and he led the Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit. His topical subject was “The General Election: What role will democratic reform play in the campaign?” and his basis thesis was that it should play a major part but probably would not. He said that the public felt disrespected by the lying to them by politicians and offered a critique of the weak checks and balances in our system of government.

When I started here, our blurbs matched a SCR member with a HCR member on broadly similar subjects. Recently we have moved to a less rigid format with addresses on different subjects and you could not find much more diverse topics than the offering on 8 February. The SCR speaker Dr Chloe Fisher presented on “Characterising Exoplanet Atmospheres with James Webb Space Telescopes” whilst Aditi Upmanyu talked about her research on “Deviant Mothers and Defiant Daughters: Radical Women Novelists of the Eighteenth Century”.

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