Oxford Research: the Duke and I

I spent a good bit of time this morning in the Duke Humphrey Reading Room. This is in the old Bodleian library (as opposed to the “new” one which is still pretty old). Spectacular in its decor, its architecture, its carvings, and its rare and VERY old books, this is almost a hallowed place. It still looks as if monks ought to be sitting in the little cubbies. I went there to review the first edition (1707) of Francois Fenelon’s text on women’s education. I was surrounded, however, by much older books. The desk is old, the bookshelf ancient, pitted, and fitted with brass shelf supports. My personal cubbie is near a window, a depression two feet deep in the massive stone walls. It looks down upon a garden–a walled garden, filled with green plants. And as I sit here, I find it a strange experience… No longer a student, no longer miles away from PhDhood (and the UK, for that matter). I feel as though I’m through the looking glass, reader card in hand at one of the world’s greatest libraries, as though the Bod is no longer the Holy Grail of untouchable greatness.

Well, okay. It still is that. But I am here all the same, sitting where Tolkien and Lewis surely sat, where countless scholars have sat through the ages. It is intense, the near pressure of history–the long years of layered fingerprints, deep thoughts and the ghosting impressions of reflective souls…

Adding my own small moment in time.

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