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Volume 1 Issue 1 Michaelmas 2011

THE CLARENDON CHRONICLE Newsletter of the Clarendon Scholars’ Association


Night at the Museum


President’s message


Why philosophy?


Getting published


Insha’Allah review


Execution (poem) WE HAVE A NAME!

Thanks to all who entered our ‘Name the Newsletter’ competition this term. There were many brilliant entries, some poetic and inspired, and others very funny (Darshan’s ‘iClox’ comes to mind!). Ben and the team at Graduate Funding were unanimous in selecting The Clarendon Chronicle as the winning entry. This was individually suggested by four Scholars—congratulations to Hannah Sikstrom, Yair Levy, Deborah Cheong and Adrian Murdock!

Ben Nicholson, Vice-Chancellor Prof. Andrew Hamilton, OUP’s Nigel Portwood, and Dr Jane Sherwood cut the birthday cake.

Night at the Museum Scholars gather at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Clarendon Fund

The setting for the Clarendon Fund’s 2011 Annual Reception was the Museum’s magnificent main court. The wondrous items on display, depicting the stirring diversity of the natural world, encircled proceedings and gave to them a positively enchanted mood. Under the watchful eyes of the dinosaurs, whose skeletons loomed large beneath the Museum’s magnificent pitched glass roof, the scholars mingled, glasses of champagne in their hands, while a jazz band grooved. 2011 marks the Clarendon Fund’s tenth anniversary, and the evening held a special significance for that reason. Professor Andrew Scholars at the Annual Reception. Hamilton, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, who formally welcomed scholars to the event, reflected on the Fund’s history to date. ‘Over the last ten years an extraordinary number of talented individuals have had the lifechanging opportunity to study at Oxford thanks to the Clarendon

Scholarships. And this Michaelmas Term Oxford welcomed its onethousandth Clarendon Scholar,’ he said. The occasion was also an opportunity to reflect on the future of the Fund. In 2012 the Clarendon Scholarships will be extended to scholars from within the European Union. The ViceChancellor emphasised that this extension will only serve to strengthen Oxford’s graduate scholarship program, adding, ‘We have a commitment at Oxford to ensure that the very best graduate students have the opportunity to study at Oxford regardless of their geographical origin or financial circumstances.’ Following a round of Happy Birthday and the cutting of a special tenth anniversary cake, scholars adjourned for cocktails at Angels Cocktail Bar, where a generous bar tab ensured that the celebrations continued long into the night. —Ben Sorgiovanni

Message from the President Dear all, Michaelmas 2011 was an amazing term for the Clarendon Scholars’ Association – energetic, inclusive, and bigger than ever! Our first general meeting for the year was attended by more than 40 Scholars, who enthusiastically volunteered for varied roles with the Clarendon Council for this year. Thank you to all those Scholars who are now helping with the newsletter, events, ‘Talking Heads’ and the Clarendon website. Scholars also voted to pass important changes to the Clarendon Constitution, which ensure that Councillors will now be elected at the end of Michaelmas Term (effective 2012), better enabling them to plan Clarendon termcards and general Council administration. Most notably, this term also saw our first Clarendon ‘families afternoon tea’, held in conjunction with Merton MCR. I would like to extend a huge thanks to last year’s Clarendon President, Amber Hood, for all her work in organising toys and delicious cakes for this wonderful event. It was great to meet so many Clarendon Scholars and their young families, and we are very keen to host a similar event next year. In the meantime, keep an eye out for a ‘Christmas Survivors’ party around the 17th December, for both families and general Scholars in Oxford for the holidays. Thanks must also go to our Clarendon team at the Graduate Funding Office for organising the spectacular Clarendon Annual Reception amidst the dinosaurs and dodos at the Natural History Museum. A roomful of Clarendon Scholars in black tie proved once again that we are surely the most glamorous scholarship community in town! Looking forward to next term, I can guarantee that Jen, Nathan, Darshan, Rob and I have lots of exciting events in store for you. Until then, on behalf of the Council I would like to wish you all a happy Christmas and New Year holiday. Best wishes,

Claire Higgins Clarendon Scholars’ President 2011/2012

Why philosophy? When people learn that I study philosophy, they’re often disappointed to hear that I haven’t (yet) discovered the meaning of life—or, for that matter, the ultimate nature of reality. Hence the motivation for this blurb. Let me try to give a sense of what philosophers do these days – and why – with a focus on my particular interests in the philosophy of logic and language. More so now than ever, academic philosophers have an eye for comparatively narrow issues. But by no means are the issues unimportant. And by all means, they are relevant to the more traditional concerns of Plato and Aristotle, such as truth and reality. They are intimately connected too with both ordinary reasoning and theoretical science. Philosophers of logic and language are especially interested in such topics as rational inference, the formalisation of intuitive concepts (one of my fetishes), and how linguistic expressions refer to things. And not just for nothing. It’s quite amazing that simple puzzles raise deep and troubling thoughts. 2

Consider the liar paradox. If I say, ‘I am lying,’ am I lying or telling the truth? If I’m lying, then I’m telling the truth; and if I’m telling the truth, then I’m lying. So it looks like I’m saying something both true and false. But surely that can’t be! The obvious unacceptability of the conclusion has generated lively debate, for it raises problems for truth and reference in ordinary reasoning as well as scientific inquiry. But it’s also led to troubling solutions, with some proposing that truth is indefinable within a language, and others banning self-reference altogether—even benign cases, like ‘I’m speaking.’ It’s hard to dispel the impression that philosophy is arcane and pointless, and I’ll readily admit that even I sometimes agree with the characterisation. Still, philosophy is a worthwhile intellectual activity, because it challenges us to rethink our most deeply-seated intuitions—to the point where obvious facts seem dubious, and crazy ideas sound plausible. Failing that, it’s also fun. —Andy Yu (Balliol) is a first-year BPhil student in philosophy

THE CLARENDON CHRONICLE – Newsletter of the Clarendon Scholars’ Association

Staff from OUP entertain questions from Clarendon Scholars.

Getting published OUP Representatives reflect on the state of academic publishing

The Oxford University Press opened its doors to Clarendon Scholars on Monday 7th November. Representatives from OUP, the oldest and largest university press in the English-speaking world, reflected on the current state of academic publishing. Tim Barton, the Managing Director of Global Academic Publishing at OUP outlined several trends. ‘It’s no pretty picture,’ Barton said. ‘The last two or three years have been really tough for academic libraries.’ He connected this with the changing research practices of students and academics: ‘Between seventy and eighty per cent of academics and students start their research online via Google. This has huge ramifications for how publishers publish,’ he said. John Louth, Senior Editor of Academic and Scholarly Law, emphasised the importance of choosing the right publisher: ‘the best indication of whether a publisher is the right fit for you is the material they have

Clarendon Scholars packed the room.

published.’ Mandy Hill, Publishing Director, UK Academic and Journals at OUP, urged that researchers not be discouraged should they receive detailed comments from reviewers. ‘It’s extremely rare for an article to be accepted with no changes, even for more senior authors,’ she said, ‘But it’s critical that authors address those comments.’ Perhaps surprisingly, publication isn’t the only way of moving your career forward. This was the message from Peter Momtchiloff, Senior Commissioning Editor for Philosophy at OUP: ‘You need to make people interested in your work. Simply getting published isn’t enough. Be active. Get to know people. Participate in things before you try to do the publishing. This will have the added benefit of allowing you to road-test your work.’ The event surely achieved its aim, to equip scholars with the information they need to make competitive submissions for publication. Thank you to OUP for supporting the Clarendon Fund and for hosting the evening. —Ben Sorgiovanni

CONGRATULATIONS to Nitzan Peri-Rotem (left) on winning the Clarendon Fund’s 10th Anniversary Article Competition, and to the runners-up, Claire Higgins (right) and Emma Kaufman (centre). Nitzan, Claire and Emma received their prizes at the Annual Reception on 17 November. You can read the winning entries at

Volume 1 Issue 1 – Michaelmas Term 2011


Execution Fatemeh Shams

Translated from the Persian by Prof. Ahmad Sadri


a new film by Ben Nicholson ‘Can you help me?...’ So pleads a prospective client to Sameer Hussein, the cynical private detective protagonist of Ben Nicholson’s new short film Insha’Allah. Insha’Allah is the first film to emerge from the partnership of Darwin Franks and Ben Nicholson. Ben, known to many for the significant supportive role he plays to Clarendon scholars, proves himself as one of many talents with this thought-provoking piece produced by the production company High Five Films, a partnership between Ben and Darwin. The film centres around the business owned by the private detective, and the tragedy that follows after a prospective client believed to be an ‘illegal immigrant’ asks for Sameer’s help. Written and filmed locally in Oxfordshire with strong links to the styles of Film Noir, the film provides a platform for contemplation. Arabic prayer and a ticking clock build tension, with the concise dialogue and black and white imagery transfixing the viewer. Just as the character of Sameer affirms, ‘it is hard to miss a man who cries at sunset prayer’, so too is it difficult to walk away without being affected by this film. Screened at a private viewing on October 9th at the Ultimate Picture Palace, Ben stated he hoped it’s ‘one down and dozens to go!’ We certainly hope so—­ going by Insha’Allah, it is with anticipation that we look forward to future projects from Ben and his colleagues. The second short film, Family Portrait, is currently underway and is expected for release in 2012. More information about Insha’Allah, and other projects produced by High Five Films, is available on the company’s website (

It was autumn… I never met Newton at all I’d never seen the red apple of gravity fall The gallows, a chair, an autumn day Climb, don’t fall; tell all you flew away The legs of the chair trembled, the autumn’s nod The apple dropped and I tasted God It was autumn… gravity meant you hanged After you passed gravity be damned It was autumn… gravity the big charade I have portrayed you hanging, ready to fade I hang between your memoirs and the earth I breathe your spirit into the sonnet of a birth Executing an order, your routine death a small feat I have run with your unshrouded, naked feet It was autumn… Now I’ve seen Newton, seen you Smiling, as the autumn winds blew. When Atefe Sahaaleh, a 16-year-old girl convicted of crime against chastity, was sentenced to death by hanging, most considered it to be a crime against humanity. But some seemed to disagree. In this poem, scholar Fatemeh Shams explores the contentious issues of capital punishment and ‘moral laws’ still in place today. Gently she encourages us to reflect on serious issues concerning religion, ethics, and human society. Answers to these issues will differ, but many will echo her sympathy for the underage victims of execution, to whom this poem is dedicated. —Thomas Tam Fatemeh Shams is a 3rd year DPhil student in Oriental Studies at Wadham College, working on the Transformation of Ideology in Post-revolutionary Persian Poetry.

—Hannah Wills THE CLARENDON CHRONICLE TEAM Coordinating editor: Thomas Tam Associate editors: Ramtin Amin, Connor Brooks, Lise Loerup Reporting: Ben Sorgiovanni, Hannah Wills Photographs: Ben Nicholson Design: Erica Lombard

The next issue of The Clarendon Chronicle will be published in Hilary Term 2012. Have you attended a conference, completed fieldwork, or travelled to interesting places? Submit your photos and stories to the newsletter team via

The Clarendon Chronicle Michaelmas Term 2011  

Newsletter of the Clarendon Scholars' Council (Michaelmas 2011)

The Clarendon Chronicle Michaelmas Term 2011  

Newsletter of the Clarendon Scholars' Council (Michaelmas 2011)