Posts by Alicia Smith

One of the figures in the Bible who I'm most fond of is the prophet Daniel: mainly because, like me, he was a literature student.

Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it [...]
Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility – young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians [...] They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.

Today I want to share a prayer that has become a regular part of my working life. At the Scriptorium here in Oxford, this is one of the prayers we say together at the beginning of every working day. It's usually attributed to the medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas; perhaps it will be helpful for you to use as you seek God's help in your work today. 

I'm drawing closer to the end of my doctoral work, and that means a lot of my work at the moment is revising drafts. In the last couple of weeks I have been redrafting the introduction to my thesis. This is slow, bitty work: fixing various details, doing small pieces of further reading and research, tightening up or clarifying expression on sentence level.

Is gentleness something academics should aspire to? If a colleague or a peer described you as gentle, would you be pleased, or a little worried?

It won't be news to anyone reading this blog that life as a researcher – perhaps particularly life as a doctoral student – can be, and often is, very isolating. You're working on a niche topic, which few other people may understand or seriously care about; your day-to-day research is self-driven and self-directed. Particularly in the humanities, there is often little to no organised time with peers. I felt the latter fairly acutely when I moved universities to start my DPhil: in my Master's programme I had had multiple weekly classes and the chance to get to know my coursemates well, but in doctoral study it was much harder to build those connections – there just wasn't the regular time. 

If all truth is God's truth, is there an academic topic where you could serve and glorify God by doing a PhD?

Last weekend in Oxford saw the second of this year's Developing a Christian Mind conferences - an annual pair of events inviting postgraduate students to consider and deepen the intersection of their academic work with Christian faith. 'Seeking Wisdom' is split into multiple disciplinary streams (this year, Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Philosophy & Theology) to enable more specific conversations to take place on how Christians think and work in particular academic fields.

James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Baker Academic, 2009)

'A Christian University Is For Lovers', runs the provocative title of the final chapter of this book, James K.A. Smith's first sally in his three-part 'Cultural Liturgies' project. Lovers of what? - you might ask. Of knowledge? Of the life of the mind? Of theology?

Last term I had the opportunity to teach undergraduates for the first time, and alongside that I completed the teaching development course offered by the Humanities division here in Oxford. Part of the course involved writing a teaching philosophy, and so I had to consider: what do I think good teaching is? Specifically, what is good teaching in my discipline?

There's something special about conversations where you can be on the same page with both faith and work. 

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