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Film competition

King's Chapel

Our own Chapel at King's is a fascinating mix of religion, politics, history, art and architecture.

Have you ever thought about the relationship between religion and other subjects that you might study?

  • History: Consider the impact of religious change on a society prior to 1900;
  • Literature: Reflect on whether literary criticism requires a knowledge of sacred texts;
  • Philosophy: Comment on the relationship between mortality and religion;
  • Politics: Explore the idea of secularism and national politics;
  • Science: Address the relationship between religion and a topic from the natural sciences;
  • Sociology: Consider how an awareness of religion helps understandings of multiculturalism.

Cambridge Divinity Faculty encourages sixth formers to research and think about one of the topics above in a team of up to four 16-19 year olds. The challenge is to produce a film lasting no more than five minutes in response to your chosen topic. This should be academic in content, but the film could take any form: debates, documentaries or responses with artistic elements are all welcome.

If you are interested, do read the further details on the Divinity Faculty website. The deadline is Friday 14 November 2014.

Date posted: 

Friday 10 October 2014

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The X Factor: Multidisciplinary (and Interdisciplinary) Approaches to Classics

Image credit: Ingo Gildenhard

At the recent Classics Faculty Sixth Form Study Days, King's Classicist Ingo Gildenhard explained how multidisciplinary approaches to Classics underpins teaching and learning at Cambridge.

The Classics Faculty is divided into caucuses, each of which brings a different approach to the study of Classics: Caucus A (Literature); Caucus B (Philosophy); Caucus C (History); Caucus D (Art and Archaeology) and Caucus E (Linguistics).

Dr. Gildenhard gave an example of how his colleagues in different caucuses each brought a different approach to the study of Ovid's Ars Amatoria [The Art of Love] in a recent lecture series:

  • A: Poetics, or: The (S)expert at Work
  • B: Sexual Ethics [gender relations, feminist readings]
  • C: The Empire Strikes Back [Ovid and Augustus, the politics of the Ars, Ovid’s banishment to the Black Sea]
  • D: Sex and the City [Ovid and the monuments, his rewriting of Rome’s urban topography]
  • E: The Language of Love (and Sex) [how can we understand the different range of meanings of Latin words to English dictionary equivalents - does raptor mean ‘rapist’ or ‘seducer’? and how does it relate to rapina and rapio?]

The students and academics gain enormously from exploring these multidisciplinary perspectives.  If and when they combine two or more approaches to address a particular topic, thereby transcending any one discipline, their work becomes interdisciplinary.

For this reason, King's Classicist John Henderson and his colleague Geoffrey Lloyd pioneered an X Caucus (Interdisciplinary) in the 1980s, to allow and encourage Cambridge students and academics to cross disciplines in their study of the Classics.

Multidisciplinarity is not restricted to Classics! You will be able to find multidisciplinary (and interdisciplinary) approaches to almost any topic. Have you got the X Factor? Think of a topic that has caught your attention in one of your A Level subjects and ask yourself what your knowledge and skills in your other A Level subjects can bring to it.

 

Date posted: 

Thursday 9 October 2014

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Mythologies (Roland Barthes)

Apple logo

Apple icon - a 21st century myth? Credit: Szilveszter Farkas (cropped)

In 1957, Roland Barthes published Mythologies, in which he discussed the workings of 'myths' in the society of his time. Drawing on ideas from semiotics (the theory of how signs and symbols work), and in particular the work of Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, Barthes was able to use language-like structures to study the social culture around him.

If you would like to read Mythologies, the most useful part for understanding what Barthes is doing is the second part (The Myth Today), in which he explains how myths form a communication system and what the value is of thinking about them in this way (how does it help us to understand the myths?). It gets a bit technical in places, so if there is more detail than you want, just take from it what you find useful. You might then like to look at some of the examples that Barthes gives in the first part of his book. NB. You will notice that Barthes's analyses are often political - they focus especially on the ways that bourgeois society uses myth to impose values on others.

One difficulty for modern readers of Barthes's work is that his examples are drawn from the fifties - they can be difficult for us to relate to. Radio 4 is currently running a series called 21st Century Modern Mythologies, in which Barthes's techniques are used to dissect contemporary myths. Do listen to some of the programmes and see what you think:

Suggestion for further reading:

Date posted: 

Wednesday 8 October 2014

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Freshers' reading groups

Welcome - letters displayed in a window

There's a great atmosphere in College as we help the new students to settle in.

Amongst the many activities that take place in Freshers' Week to settle new students into the College community, there are discussion groups in which tutors and students across all subjects meet to discuss a book that everybody has read in advance. This year's book is:

Monbiot is a journalist and activist who read Zoology at University. He presents his book as a polemic for "positive environmentalism". The book consists of a series of essays designed to promote the cultural and economic change that will be necessary to precede any ecological shift. On some level Feral is a radical book with a radical argument, however the question for the King's freshers is how substantial, how convincing is Monbiot's argument and his evidence, and how much of it is the ideological enchantment of a liberal public intellectual?

Book cover

If you fancy reading this book for yourself, you may be interested to think about how Monbiot establishes the veracity of his claims. How scientific is his thesis of "rewilding"? Does the book survive the lengthy anecdotal descriptions of his natural encounters, enchanting though they are? And is it telling that Monbiot is male, enjoys risky outdoor activity and has his moment of epiphany when he slings a dead deer over his shoulders and carries it home? Do you think that he would have a different environmentalism if he weren't so enamored by the wild in him? Or should we be cautious about any dismissal of his honesty? He discusses the effects of logging and mining on Yanomami lands at some length (and spent a fair amount of his own time experiencing it) - it is fair to say that his "rewilding" is borne of some knowledge of different cultural ecologies? Finally, do you think that we should be encouraged by this book, or discouraged?

Date posted: 

Friday 3 October 2014

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Choosing school subjects

The river in King's

For Cambridge Economics, Maths is required and Further Maths is very helpful where available.

If you have just started Year 11 (15-16 year olds), you will soon need to start thinking about which subjects you will take next year.

If you would like to study at a selective university such as Cambridge or another university in the Russell Group, it is especially important to make sure that you choose subjects that will give you good preparation for courses that you may want to apply for. You may already have a favourite subject that you can research, but don't worry if you don't know yet - the advice about making well-informed choices will help to put you in the best position for when you choose a university course later on. 

As well as the subjects you already do at school, it is worth remembering that there are a lot more courses available that you start new at university - the perfect course for you may be something you've not thought of yet!!

To help you with this process:

Date posted: 

Wednesday 10 September 2014

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Beginning New Testament Greek

Greek text

Credit: darkwood67

Theology and Religious Studies students at Cambridge study a scriptural language in first year, choosen from New Testament Greek, Hebrew, Qur'anic Arabic or Sanscrit. You don't need to have studied foreign languages before, and this is a great opportunity to learn one of the original languages in which the texts of a major world religion were written.

If you are interested in New Testament Greek, we hope that you will find the new website launched by Cambridge Divinity Faculty useful:

Date posted: 

Tuesday 9 September 2014

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Maths / Physics lectures

Einstein statue

Einstein statue at the US National Academy of Sciences in Washington DC. Credit: Mark Fischer (cropped)

The Millenium Maths Project has put films of some recent lectures for sixth form students up online. These were given at an event for 16 and 17 year olds, which took place at Cambridge University on 27 June this year.

If you enjoy maths and would like to receive notification of Millenium Maths Project events and resources, you might like to register to be on their mailing list or follow them on Twitter/Facebook.

Date posted: 

Saturday 6 September 2014

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Law in Action

Leicester Magistrates Court

Leicester Magistrates' Court. Credit: Steve Cadman

If you are interested in studying Law at university, it can be helpful to get some feel for the law in action, for example by observing a local court in session. You could visit your local Magistrates' and/or County Courts (or regional equivalent, such as the Sheriff Court in Scotland).

Even the very highest and grandest courts, such as the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand and the Supreme Court (Parliament Square), are open to the public.

Date posted: 

Friday 5 September 2014

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Economic Success Drives Language Extinction

Uluru, Northern Territory, Australia, named by the local Pitjantjatjara people. The Pitjantjatjara language is classified as vulnerable by UNESCO. Image credit: Sjoerd van Oosten.

Thriving economies are the biggest factor in the disappearance of minority languages and conservation should focus on the most developed countries where languages are vanishing the fastest, finds a new study. - See more at: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/economic-success-drives-language-exti...

A new study has revealed that economic growth and globalisation are driving the loss of minority languages.

The researchers, including Cambridge Zoologist Tatsuya Amano, used the criteria for defining endangered species (as defined by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature) to measure the rate and extent of language loss. They then analysed the geographical distribution of the endangered languages in order to draw conclusions about how and why they have gone into decline. Dr. Amano explained that:

As economies develop, one language often comes to dominate a nation's political and educational spheres. People are forced to adopt the dominant language or risk being left out in the cold - economically and politically.

The researchers argue that conservation efforts should therefore be focused on minority languages in more economically developed regions, such as northwestern North America and northern Australia.

Read the researchers' findings in full in Tatsuya Amano et al, 'Global Distribution and Drivers of Language Extinction Risk,' Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 281 (October 2014).

Consult the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger.

Look into the conservation efforts of the Endangered Language Alliance in New York City and the online Endangered Languages Project. National Geographic's  Enduring Voices project has produced eight online talking dictionaries in an effort to conserve minority languages.

  • What are the benefits / risks of applying the criteria for defining endangered species to minority languages?
  • How best can minority languages be protected?  Or should they be protected at all?
used the criteria for defining endangered species to measure rate and prevalence of language loss, as defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature - See more at: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/economic-success-drives-language-exti...
used the criteria for defining endangered species to measure rate and prevalence of language loss, as defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. - See more at: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/economic-success-drives-language-exti...
used the criteria for defining endangered species to measure rate and prevalence of language loss, as defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. - See more at: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/economic-success-drives-language-exti...
used the criteria for defining endangered species to measure rate and prevalence of language loss, as defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. - See more at: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/economic-success-drives-language-exti...

Date posted: 

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Tags: 

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