Today I officially finished my class. Over the past six weeks our class has written five papers on three books. It’s not a lot, but exerting this much energy during summer was harder than I thought it would be. The first three weeks of this class were in Norman. Every day from 10:30-12:45, our 17-person class would have an exciting discussion or debate about what we had read the night before. At the end of the week, we would sit down write our paper, and start the next book. It was a cycle that got extremely tiring (especially because it was summer and I just wanted to sleep in). However, the second half of this class took place over here, in the mother land.
The second half of this class took place abroad, and the structure was very different. This portion of the class was taught in the traditional “Oxford Style.” You have one meeting a week with your professor where you defended what you have learned that week. That’s it. It’s a tough discussion where through arguing your points with someone incredibly intelligent, you learn much more information than you could just from someone telling you facts. Over the past month, I’ve had the opportunity to learn from Dr. Ben Morgan.
Dr.BenMorgan (always pronounced by saying his name as one word with no spaces) is an absolutely brilliant literature scholar with Oxford. Something that I found so interesting about the Oxford Style of teaching is that it is completely common and acceptable for students to go to their professors’ homes or apartments and have discussion. This is what our group did. Every week, my partner and I would take the 27-minute walk from Brasenose College down High Street for a mile, walking past shops, restaurants, and houses. Although the walk was long, there were always several indicators we were almost there. We would walk past a pub that we stopped at almost every trip to use their restroom (and not buy anything), we would walk past the mile track where Roger Bannister was the first person to ever run a sub four-minute mile. We would finally come to our only turn on the journey at Chester Street marked with a sign pointing towards St. Alban’s Church, but the alignment was off, and they were missing a period so it looked like “STALBAN’S CHURCH.” Dr.BenMorgan lived on the road and his English home was so welcoming. Dr.BenMorgan is in his early 30s and is the quintessence of an English scholar. Incredibly nice, always complimentary (even when he’s correcting you), constantly offering his guests tea, listening to our work, nodding and letting out a scholarly “Hmmm” after good points, and always listening.
Our meetings would last exactly an hour from 4:00 to 5:00, he would always start by offering us tea and water. Then either my partner or I would read our paper aloud. Dr.BenMorgan would sit and listen to the essay and after parsing through our jumbled thoughts, he would offer critiques, advice, and always end with a compliment. We would then spend the remaining time tying what we wrote about to several key moments in the text. After every meeting with Dr.BenMorgan, I came out thinking something absolutely different about the book I had read. I have learned that authors work so hard to bring nuances to life and really give readers a message far beyond the simple storyline. Dr.BenMorgan has taught me to find those nuances and to never be satisfied reading a paragraph once. And that is the Oxford Style.
Although I’ll probably never see Dr.BenMorgan ever again, it has been a truly amazing and once in a lifetime experience to learn from someone so ridiculously intelligent in one of the most academic environments.