Oxford: A Literary Wonderland


Over the past month, I had the amazing opportunity to study abroad at the University of Oxford. For four exceptionally short weeks, I attended classes in the glorious and prestigious college of Christ Church, the oldest college of Oxford University, and I marveled at the amazing beauty and architecture that seemed to engulf the city. As a writer, it was a dream come true to aimlessly wander through these cobblestone streets, taking in all the sights and smells that accompanied them.

Oxford certainly possesses a distinct peculiarity in its appearance and overall atmosphere. Without fail, this unique disposition draws travelers from all corners of the world to the wondrous City of Dreaming Spires. However, tourists certainly aren’t the only people who become mesmerized by Oxford’s endless charm. In fact, some of the greatest authors of literature have found their earth-shattering inspiration in the hustling streets of Oxford.

Some of the amazing masterminds who so brilliantly capture the essence of Oxford within their works include C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and J.R.R. Tolkien. These three literary geniuses along with their fellow colleagues encompassed and established a well-known and utterly praised literary society known as The Inklings. In this fraternity of friendship and literature, these authors would critique manuscripts, discuss politics, and partake in immense merriment while enjoying a pint from their favorite hang out spot: The Eagle and Child. With such a tight-knit group, it is often speculated and very likely that the thoughts and ideas of each author mixed into the writings of their fellow authors. Along with trading ideas, the Inklings had another thing in common when it came to writing styles. This commonality was Oxford itself.

Each Inkling wrote about the utter beauty and wonder of Oxford in a multitude of different ways. For example, C.S. Lewis uses the glorious and luminescent lampposts of Oxford as a vantage point in one of his greatest works — The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The streets of Oxford are littered with classic lamps that effortlessly resemble the beacon of hope in Lewis’ classic novel.

Evelyn Waugh — who technically is not an Inkling but closely related — spent a grand majority of his novel Brideshead Revisited discussing the atmosphere of Oxford during the university terms and the shenanigans that the reckless students of this institution attempt to get away with. His illustrations of the glorious meadows and canals instantly transport you to the days of summer.

Meanwhile, a few miles out of the city, the rolling hills and beautiful landscape that J.R.R. Tolkien so vividly describes in Lord of the Rings are just waiting to be wandered — hopefully with a less intense incentive.

Oxford is truly a picturesque place — a literary wonderland of sorts. With such a diverse landscape and ambiance, it was practically impossible for the Inklings to write the same thing twice. The energy and wonder of Oxford courses so deeply through the city’s veins that it’s hard not to feel absolutely alive and inspired in its magnificent presence.

As I wandered through the streets of Oxford, I finally understood why the Inklings were so determined to remain in Oxford, many of them until their dying days. Oxford was their literary heaven on Earth. It possesses every type of landscape needed to create the backdrop for so many timeless tales. During one day in Oxford, you can nap in the luscious grass whilst soaking up the endless sunshine and silence of the countryside, and when you awake, the well-worn cobblestone streets of the city center invite you to tread upon them and explore the ancient wonders they possess. While you can see many different sites in a day in Oxford, I firmly believe that it would take a lifetime to uncover all the buried treasures the city harbors. The Inklings made this feat their dying quest. They might not have uncovered as much as they had hoped, but their discoveries and observations of Oxford are forever preserved in the sweet words of their wondrous books.

Oxford possesses a very distinct style. It’s one of the very few cities in the world that embraces modernity while also remaining utterly classic. The Oxford that the Inklings so vividly describe can be seen in every bustling street and desolate alleyway throughout the town; however, it also conforms to the needs of its current inhabitants. Overall, it does not age. It powerfully combats the deterioration of time and successfully remains a charming and wonderful piece of history. I was very lucky to enjoy its treasures for the month I had. From a writer’s perspective, I am now a firm believer in the Inklings insistence on its literary power. Oxford truly is a literary wonderland, and thanks to these great men, it will forever claim this title.

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