And We’re Off (-2nd Week, Michaelmas Term)

And so it begins! I am newly settled into my little Victorian bedroom in East Oxford (above) and am now in the process of settling into my new identity as a bona fide Oxford student.

Latin Class. My first official University of Oxford class, Intermediate Latin, started this morning. The History Faculty very helpfully offers those of their students who have not yet acquired sufficient skills in Latin the option of attending a three-week presessional course prior to the start of term, at either a complete beginner or at a somewhat intermediate level. In the intermediate class, we have about 20 students from various different programmes–a fair number of MSt students in Medieval History and Medieval Studies, but also some MSt, MPhil, and DPhil students in other history programmes who anticipate needing Latin for their research.

For the presessional class, we are meeting in a seminar room at the Centre for Classical & Byzantine Studies on St. Giles Street for an hour each morning and an hour each afternoon, with a 3-hour break for lunch and revision in the middle. For a text we’re using Moreland and Fleischer’s Intensive Latinand the title isn’t kidding. After covering three tenses in two conjugations as well as 1st declension nouns in Unit 1, it lightly skips over to all tenses of the subjunctive mood in Unit 2, the 2nd declension and tense sequence in Unit 3, and then all six tenses in two moods across four conjugations in Unit 4. And so on through all 18 units, with various and other sundry grammatical points thrown in as by-the-ways. The plan is to cover the first twelve units in three weeks, and then complete the rest of the book in the full term weekly Latin class.

For those of us with at least a little Latin background, it isn’t so bad yet, as we are starting in Unit 1 and essentially going through a rapid review at the moment, but it’s likely to get more difficult very quickly. Fortunately, I had ordered the book early and had the chance to work through the first six or seven units over the summer, a strategy I would definitely advise as it makes things much easier for the first week or so while there are so many other things to do to get settled in.

In Other News. Outside of class, I have also managed to collect my Biometric Residence Permit from the post office (an exercise sent to teach me patience, I’m sure), collect my university card from the college, connect to the university remote access wifi network, and purchase some tea. Tomorrow, I shall attempt to open a bank account and purchase a graduate’s cap and gown. In between reviewing subjunctive verbs, of course . . .

** A Note on Terms & Weeks at Oxford: The Oxford calendar is a carefully calculated creature. To begin with, there are three academic terms (named after old ecclesiastical feast days), each a mere eight weeks in length: Michaelmas Term (Oct-Dec), Hilary Term (Jan-Mar), and Trinity Term (Apr-Jun). Each week within “full term” is then numbered, with those in between terms either counting away from the past term or counting towards the coming one. So, two weeks before full term is -1st Week, the week before is 0 (“Noughth”) Week, and then each of the eight weeks of full term are counted from 1st Week to 8th Week (and if necessary, so on into the break with 9th Week, 10th Week, etc.). The prosaic “October 27th” can then be abandoned in favour of (or at least supplemented with) “Tuesday of 3rd Week, Michaelmas”, placing the event or deadline helpfully in the context of the academic year.


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