Seminars meet each weekday morning, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study, or exploring the many places of interest in and around the city.
Please note that OUDCE reserves the right to alter course content and/or cancel field trips in accordance with government guidance.
Clocking Time: From the Palaeolithic age to the Postmodern, we consider the implications for daily life of the precise measurement and strict imposition of seconds, minutes, months and millennia. How has the inexorable drive toward technological accuracy and historiographical delineation shaped human society and affairs?
Time and Space: Einstein dismantled Newton’s intuitive model of absolute time, replacing it with “spacetime”, a startlingly counter-intuitive, ever-evolving construction in which universal time is anything but absolute. We learn in detail about the great man’s theories and discover how even within our teaching room, time is advancing at differing speeds. And I’ll be explaining how we can visit the year 3020.
Storytime: We uncover the earliest time-travel fiction, some dating from the Eighteenth Century and engage with the ever-growing body of writers inspired by the possibilities of temporal manipulation, among them H.G. Wells, James Joyce, John Wyndham, and Alain Robbe-Grillet. We also consider how in films such as La Jetée and Memento, cinema creatively challenges our perception of time.
Time in the Mind: Why does time appear to drag when we are bored? And might we somehow prevent the years from whizzing by? Contrasting the latest developments in neuroscience with a range of venerable metaphysical hypotheses – those of Aquinas, Spinoza and Husserl, for example – today’s class examines how humans strive to comprehend and control their personal experience of time
Time’s Arrow: Was there ‘time’ before the Big Bang? Why does time ‘flow’, and why only in one direction? And does time ‘stop’ inside a Black Hole? Quantum physics can supply some if not all of the answers and we’ll hear about these and other possible solutions to the intractable questions of determinism, infinity and The End and we will ask, finally, if human beings can ever truly ‘understand’ time.