The End’s Beginning (8th Week, Trinity Term)

And so, unbelievably, the end is upon us! Or at least, the last week of the last term of the year. Seminars and lectures are ended, undergraduates departing, and only those of us with research to complete over the summer are getting ready to bunker down in the (mercifully now much emptier) libraries.

A few events of note:

End of Year Latin Assessment: Being assured that this would be an easy exam since 0th week of Michaelmas Term didn’t prevent a little last-minute cramming of cum clauses and hic, haec, hoc, but although my translation of the Latin poem was a little, shall we say, creative, and I may possibly have confused the word for ‘thousand’ with the word for ‘miles’ in the passage from Geoffrey of Monmouth with interesting results, I think in general it went off fairly well. (Dictionaries were provided, which of course made the whole thing much easier.) The mark doesn’t even appear on our transcripts, so it really is just to check that after a year of Latin tutelage, when handed a Latin passage and a dictionary, we have some inkling of how to arrive at a rough sense of the meaning.

Essay Feedback: Having delivered our essays into whatever void lies behind that desk at the Examination Schools at the start of the term, we are still unclear as to when we will receive our actual marks. We did, however, find out last week that the MSt Medieval History students would be receiving some sort of feedback via email (giving us one more thing to anticipate and dread in equal measure, Oxford examiners not being exactly known for their molly-coddling).

The email finally came this week, with a separate sheet for each of the two essays, completed by each essay’s two anonymous examiners. The top of the sheet has a rubric assessing the essay in four categories: 1) engagement & range, 2) analysis & argument, 3) evidence & methodology, and 4) structure & presentation, with a five-point scale ranging from ‘Needs Improvement’ through to ‘Excellent’, followed by a paragraph summary of the examiners’ comments.

To my surprise and great relief,  the feedback on my essays was generally positive, particularly for my much-suffered-over historiography essay, and even the critical comments were helpful, if rather incisive – my particular weaknesses seem to have been an over-deference to other historians and an occasional lack of originality in argumentation. Still, it seems there’s hope for them making scholars out of us yet!

Chapel Dinner: To celebrate the end of the year in true Oxford fashion, Hertford College put on a black-tie dinner in Hall for all the members of the choir. Delicious food, lots of wine, and plenty of good-natured pennying and sconcing*, followed by us all climbing up to stand on the High Table to sing a traditional motet (in Latin, naturally), before traipsing down to the Chapel to wrap up the evening chanting the Compline service by candlelight.

* From a much older tradition involving breaches of etiquette, sconcing has nowadays evolved into essentially the Oxford-equivalent of “Never Have I Ever…”, while “pennying” involves slipping a penny into an unsuspecting neighbour’s glass, whereupon he or she is obligated to drain the glass. Like many Oxford traditions, this one has a lot of half-remembered rules that are naturally entirely different from the rules at Cambridge the Other Place.


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