Glenn F. Chesnut at Oxford University 1965-1968. For a complete search of the internet, it is also necessary to look for the common misspellings and variants of his name: Glenn Chesnut / Glen F. Chesnut / Glen Chesnut / Glenn F. Chestnut / Glenn Chestnut / Glen F. Chestnut / Glen Chestnut / Glenn C., South Bend

The dreaming spires of Oxford


"The dreaming spires of Oxford."

Glenn F. Chesnut went over to England in 1965 on a Fulbright Fellowship and began working on a doctorate at Oxford University. He spent three years there, and then came back to the United States, where he taught two years at the University of Virginia, before going to the Indiana University campus at South Bend, where he was to spend most of his teaching career.
He finished his thesis after he was at Indiana University and flew back to Oxford for his viva, which he passed with no difficulty, although the pressure of facing two examiners and knowing that one's entire academic career is on the line, is quite extraordinary.

The internal examiner was Timothy Kallistos Ware, who -- although the son of a British general -- had gone over to Greece and become a monk on Mt. Athos. He eventually returned to England, where he taught Byzantine history and theology at Oxford University, and served as archimandrite (abbot) of a small Orthodox monastery which he established there. The monks were hesychasts, in the ancient tradition of Mt. Athos, and chanted the Jesus Prayer continually, seeking the vision of the Uncreated Light.
Oxford has one of the hardest doctoral programs in the world. Only one out of seventeen people actually finish the degree program and obtain a D.Phil. (Oxford calls it a D.Phil. while American universities call it a Ph.D.).

The domed building in the middle of the photograph above is the Radcliffe Camera, which housed part of the Oxford University library system. Glenn did some of his research in that library.

Bodleian Library at Oxford University

  Glenn carried out other parts of his research in the Bodleian Library (shown above). He also worked in the library at Pusey House and in the library in the Ashmolean Museum.  

Aerial view of Oxford University


A view of some of the Oxford University
buildings from the air

The three earliest medieval European universities -- Oxford, Paris, and Bologna -- all came into existence during the twelfth century. Oxford University in particular still has a beautiful collection of distinguished medieval buildings, as can be seen in the photo above, intermixed with architecture from every subsequent era. When you are a student at the university, you are made aware at all times that you are at the heart of an extraordinary centuries-old tradition of western thought.

Glenn Chesnut a.k.a. Glenn Chestnut as a student at Oxford University 1965-68

  Glenn F. Chesnut crossing a street in downtown Oxford.  

Flower gardens alongside Christ Church in Oxford

  Glenn Chesnut was a member of Linacre College, an Oxford University college for graduate students only. The students came from all over the world, including not just the British Isles, but also Australia, Holland, Germany, Egypt, Sudan, Nigeria, Israel, Italy, South Africa, and numerous other places.

Linacre College at that time was located right next to Christ Church, one of the most prestigious undergraduate colleges. The photo above is taken from the lawn of Linacre College and shows the flower gardens on that side of Christ Church, with Christ Church's Tom Tower in the background.

Christ Church meadows

  Behind Linacre College lay Christ Church meadows, which sometimes had cows grazing in it, and was almost completely filled with bright yellow daffodils in the Spring.

Glenn Chesnut's official thesis supervisor was S. L. Greenslade, who was the Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Christ Church.

All Souls College at Oxford University

  Glenn F. Chesnut also worked closely with Peter Brown, the Late Roman historian at All Souls College, the Oxford college shown in the photo above.

Peter Brown was just making his name as a scholar with his beautiful biography of St. Augustine. Peter was married at that time to a Czechoslovakian psychiatrist, from whom he had learned how good psychiatrists can deduce what is going on in a patient's subconscious. Some of the enormous insights his book gave into St. Augustine's thoughts and feelings came from using those techniques.

Glenn in turn learned a good deal from Peter about how to penetrate down below the surface of a historical character in order to reveal that person's inner attitudes and thoughts, and made use of those skills later on in the books which he wrote about the twelve step program.

Glenn F. Chesnut a.k.a. Glenn F. Chestnut a.k.a. Glen Chestnut and his wife Roberta Chesnut as students at Oxford University

  Glenn Chesnut (with his first wife Roberta) standing
in front of one of the medieval buildings in Oxford.

Punting on the river Cherwell at Oxford

  One of the ways Oxford students like Glenn would relax was to go punting. A punt was a flat-bottomed boat which you pushed along with a long pole. Oxford lay at the point of land where the river Cherwell ran into the river Thames (which had created a natural defensive moat around most of the city walls during the middle ages). The Cherwell in particular was very shallow, as can be seen in this photo, which made it ideal for poling a boat.  

Glenn F. Chesnut a.k.a. Glen F. Chesnut a.k.a. Glen F. Chestnut in Amsterdam

  This is a good photo of Glenn Chesnut from the period when he was a student at Oxford. This photo was taken around 1967 or 1968, when Glenn was visiting Amsterdam for a few days, so this is a Dutch canal boat which he is getting out of.

During his time at Oxford, he also made longer trips to study and attend university lectures in theology at New College in Edinburgh and at the University of Göttingen in Germany. He made another trip to Germany later on, traveling with Van A. Harvey (one of his professors at Southern Methodist University) to visit the University of Marburg, where there was a scholarly conference being held in honor of the famous New Testament scholar and existentialist theologian Rudolf Bultmann.

Glenn also made sure to make two long visits to Paris, along with a tour of western France, and in addition was able to visit Florence in Italy and a number of different places in Greece.

He spent a good part of the summer of 1967 journeying through Turkey looking at ancient Greco-Roman and Byzantine sites, traveling on local buses all the way from Constantinople in the west to Edessa in the deserts east of the Euphrates. His thesis topic dealt almost totally with the eastern end of the Roman empire, so this was the part of the Mediterranean world he most wanted to see.

Glenn did not get a chance to learn to appreciate Rome and the western half of the ancient Roman empire until eleven years later, when he received the Rome Prize (Prix de Rome) in Classics in 1978, and was able to spend 1978-79 as a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome.

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