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Christopher Douce

A233 Journal - May 2024

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6 May 2024

I’ve been in a bit of a marking hole for a while.

The last thing I did before taking a bit of work-imposed break from study was watch a production of The Tempest that was staged at The Globe. I turns out that I have lost my copy of the text; it is either hidden amongst a pile of books, or it is at my parents place; I don’t know which. To get around this, I’ve been following a version of the text with a Project Guttenberg version that I have downloaded onto my Kindle.

I recently found out that the version of the text I had wasn’t the one that was recommended by the module team, which has now been delivered. It is the introduction to the set text that I have ordered, and it is that text that I’ve been reading today.

I’ve also emailed a bunch of additional reading to my Kindle, which I hope to go through over the next couple of days. I feel I’m building up towards the writing of the EMA. Another step towards it will be a Shakespeare lecture that takes place tomorrow. In between my day job and study, I’ll also be marking some project assignments. I have a lot to be getting on with.

10 May 2024

I’m finally doing a bit of proper study. Two days ago I went to an online tutorial that was about TMA 5 preparation, which I found quite helpful. Yesterday I listened to the remainder of a module team tutorial that was about how to go about reading Shakespeare. This morning, and also for a part of yesterday, I’ve been skim reading a bunch of additional readings I’ve found from both the module website and the OU library. I feel I’m getting there.

The Tempest is growing on me. Whilst I’ve always liked science fiction, I’ve never really liked fantasy. I found the idea of a magician creating a storm and causing mischief thoroughly boring. I can, however, see that there’s a whole lot more going on than I ever realised.

Our tutor has directed us to a site Shakespeareswords.com which looks to be pretty useful.

Next steps: finish up all my reading, and then go onto making my word processed notes from my Kindle notes and highlights, and then writing, which will hopefully take a couple of days.

15 May 2024

A couple of days ago I went to a tutorial that was run by my tutor. I think there were five of us; a lot was covered, and it was recorded. I picked up a whole load of tips on how to approach my essay.

I spent a lot of time yesterday sat in a car. I made use of over 4 or 5 hours of driving by listening to an audio book of The Dispossessed. The more I listen to it, the more there is to unpick.

To help with the unpicking, a fellow student shared the following YouTube videos, which are certainly worth a listen:

I was struck by a couple of things. I was struck by how many detailed videos the presenter of the second video had mad. I was struck by how much time and energy had been expended preparing all of these. I liked the third video; it talks about materialism vs idealism. It has helped me to reflect on the views that I previously held about science fiction. The points about roles, origins and purpose of stories are interesting too. 

19 May 2024

A busy couple of days. I managed to finish transferring all my digital e-book notes into my Word document. I had to do quite a bit of driving yesterday, so I spent 4 more hours of it listening to The Dispossessed. I think I have a few more hours of listening to go, but I know what happens, and (broadly) how the final chapters are structured.

Today has been a day of two halves. In the morning I did the bulk of my writing, building on and drawing on my notes. It turned out I was 500 words over the word count. I then went through a cycle of editing. Although I think there is still some time to go, I got to a point when I was happy with what I had written, and what I had learnt. This time I applied quite a rigorous writing process. I felt that looking for additional resources, and skim reading them was pretty helpful. I also carefully referenced every article that I downloaded. If I found I didn’t use it, I cut it from the reference list.

There is a niggling feeling that I have that I haven’t really answered the TMA question, but I really don’t think that is the case. I could have picked on more bits of realism, and more specific bits of fantasy, but underneath it all there is the need to express your understanding of the text and to express understanding of different literary terms. I’ll try not to worry. I think I’ve done this.

28 May 2024

Only two more days to go until the final TMA deadline on A233.

I’ve started to get ahead on the reading (and studying) of my next module, A334. This means working through some of the free versions of the texts that I’ve downloaded from Project Guttenberg. To conclude this A233 blog, I wanted to share two points of learning from my studies of English, and points of learning from studying this module.

The first is that I’m starting to read texts in a slightly different way. Although this sounds a bit weird, but I feel as if I’m more aware of what is written. I’m also questioning: why words were written. I found myself realising this when I was reading a popular science (or engineering) book about cloud computing; a text which relates to my day job. (Admittedly, it was a very good book).

The other bit relates to The Tempest. When I watched a production of The Tempest for the first time, I wasn’t very taken by it. I thought it was really silly; all that stuff about magic, fairies and monsters. I didn’t speak to me.

The more I read about it, not just of the module materials, but articles I found from the OU library, the more I began to appreciate it. I reflected on the characters, and the context in which it was written. Turning to an entirely different subject, I also reflected on some research presentations I had attended that were about decolonising computing, and what that meant. 

Could The Tempest be used as a lens to understand this completely different subject? Maybe software engineers could be a bit like Prospero, using all their technical books to enact digital magic. What about the other characters in the play? I will continue to mull over these idle questions.

I’m now looking forward to As you like it, Julius Caesar, and Hamlet.

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Christopher Douce

A233 Journal - April 2024

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7 April 2024

I am procrastinating in a really productive way: I’m reading ahead! I’ve been reading Startdust. It is interesting note that there are a number of different versions. I accidentally downloaded the text only version. What you do need is the illustrated version. The illustrations add a huge amount to the text, since on its own, I found the text quite hard to follow.

I’ve made it part way through the chapter that I shouldn’t be reading.

It’s time to begin to collate all my notes, to prepare for the writing of the TMA. I’ve got notes in two different places: pencil scribbles in the set text, and digital highlights on the PDF version that I’ve been reading using my Kindle. I’ll see how I get on.

12 April 2024

I’ve downloaded an audio book of The Dispossessed. Today I’m helping a friend get settled in his new house. Since it’s quite a drive away, listen to The Dispossessed whilst I’m driving. I found the first couple of chapters unfathomable, and I have no idea what is going on.

13 April 2024

I’m stuck at home with a dodgy ankle that was caused by too much running about, and the messing about with furniture didn’t’ help it one bit. Subsequently, this gives me a bit of time to complete TMA 4! I edit together a set of notes from my reading, I then have a go to edit up my story, and then cycle round a loop of editing a few times. I’m quite pleased with what I’ve written, but less happy with the reflective section, where I’m really struggling with word count. 

I really like Propp’s actants, but I feel pretty dumb, since the extent of my reflection seems to be: ‘I like them, and they have helped me’. I think I know where I’m going to let myself down in the TMA, but it has nearly got to that point where I’ve just got to submit it.

14 April 2024

It’s ‘listening to The Dispossessed’ day. I’m making reasonable progress, but it’s slow and long going. I’ve really got to concentrate to understand what on earth is going on. Since it’s all a bit weird, I don’t know what detail is going to be important, and what detail adds to the overall atmosphere. I don’t think I like it. I glimpsed at the module materials, and there is a comment that the text places demands on the reader. I’m struggling and I’m not even reading it.

It really isn’t good that I’ve fallen asleep twice. On the second occasion I slept through half a chapter. This has never happened.

15 April 2024

One hour of listening before I start work. The Dispossessed has become very weird. Let’s say: I appreciate it, but I don’t like it. I appreciate it’s difficult to predict the future, but spacemen reading books and sending letters? As for all the faux physics, that bit is really starting to grate.

16 April 2024

Another chapter first thing in the morning. The further I get into it, the more I’m drawn to it. I’m surprised at how much action there is!

It’s time to get back to studying a bit more systematically again. I’m back to the online module materials. There are bits that I’ve missed in the previous section, but I need to keep moving forward. It’s onto the video and audio material that relate to Stardust. There are interviews and videos to work through. I’ll skive off a bit of my day job, with the justification that everything I’m doing here is connected (in one way or another).

I’m on a roll: I’ve reviewed all the audio and video clips in the Le Guin weeks, making some notes. My next activity has been to prep a TMA 5 document. Noticing there’s a fair amount of supplementary material, I start to download articles from the library.

Before I’ve finished today, I’m going to have a quick look in the Shakespeare section to see if there’s any audio or video materials I can have a look or listen to.

17 April 2024

Struggling with ankle aches and pains, I join the queue to the GP, whilst listening to chapter 11 of The Dispossessed

When I get back from the queue, I make the following post to the A233 ‘laid back’ Facebook group: “I think I've done a 180 turn when it comes to The Dispossessed. I've gone from: 'this is really tedious, and is continually making me fall asleep' to 'this is really amazing stuff!'. Two chapters on the audio book to go. Keep with it; there are Urasti propetarian dividends to be had, even though it initially might sound like a lot of nonsense (if it is your kind of thing).”

I’m now browsing through the Journal of Science Fiction Studies, when I really ought to be browsing through the IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering. 

It’s all related, right?

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Christopher Douce

A233 Journal - March 2024

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7 March 2024

This is a cheeky retrospective post, but I’m adding it to mark a date. In my spare time (of which, I don’t have too much!) I run a comedy night. Inspired by the TMA question, I have a go at writing a satirical and political fairy tale, called (unimaginatively) A Fairy Tale of Lewisham. After a bit of editing, and a poorly timed practice session, I read it out. It got a couple of laughs, and a round of applause. I’m glad I have done it, but I have no idea whether I can use the basis of what I’ve done in my TMA. To answer this question, I ask my tutor. 

15 March 2024

I’ve been a bit rubbish updating this study log recently, since I’ve been in what you might call a ‘valley of marking’; I’ve had to turn around the marking for two different important modules reasonably quickly. I also know that my new A233 tutor has been in a similar situation; she has since has returned my TMA 2 and TMA 3, and has provided some really helpful feedback which really got me thinking.

After what has become a mild study hiatus, I have returned to my books again. Today I’ve been working through understanding what is needed from the week 20 and week 21 online materials. I’ve nearly finished working through all the video and audio materials, which has helped me to understand what reading I’ve got to do.

I have, however, read the first couple of chapters of the module materials, but I need to go over them again, and then find my way to chapter 3 if I have any chance of keeping on track.

I think I know what TMA 4 option I’m going to do. As it happened, I had a go of writing something before I had thoroughly had a look at the TMA question.

I have four things to do. The first is to listen (and make notes about) the final audio recording in week 21. Next up (I think) is to return to the block text and return to where I was reading, and then to read a whole long list of tales I had noted down from the week 21 online materials. The final activity is to try to catch up on some of the tutorials, since I’ve missed a couple of them. I feel that my current study approach isn’t very systematic, but I feel as if I’m continuing to learn from everything.

There has been some various chats on one of the A233 Facebook groups: some fellow students are clearly enjoying this bit of the module. There are also some interesting opinions about Angela Carter. I don’t quite ‘get’ her stories yet, but other students and tutors really like her work. I’ve yet to work through the materials about Freud (which I’m a bit sceptical about, to say the least) but I’m hoping to get onto that today.

So, all in all, some progress. I am looking forward to the Shakespeare bit of the module when I get there.

30 March 2023

I think I’m getting behind since I have remained in my valley of marking for longer than expected.

I needed to decide how to spend my time. Rather than working towards writing TMAs, I needed to focus on marking TMAs. This said, a couple of weeks back, aware that thing were running away from me, I have read through a couple of chapters from the module materials – I just need to reassess where I am.

In addition to the work, I’ve had to drop everything to help my parents with a few things. This led me to ask myself another question: to help me keep on track, what can I practically do to keep on track, or to take a strategic approach with my studies? 

Knowing that I had a long car journey, I managed to listen to the audio version of Simon Armitage’s translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. This gave me a very good idea of what the text was all about. Completing this, I also managed to find an episode of In Our Time which covered the same text and also featured an appearance by Armitage. I this programme to be really helpful, adding a bit more context.

Aware that The Tempest is going to be featured in the EMA, I had a thought: could I adopt a similar approach? I found a Royal Shakespeare Company production in an online service called Drama Online, which all students can access. I watched the performance and tried to follow the text at the same time. Although useful, my immediate and full blown exposure to the play did cause me to miss some of the important details, such as who the characters were. My excuse being that I kept getting distracted, to view the play in a number of episodes,

There was a curious resource that was helpful: the CBeebies production of The Tempest. There also appears to be a CBeebies Radio version, which I’m mentioning here, just in case I get the time to have a listen! These links may, of course, stop working at any point.

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Christopher Douce

A233 Journal - February 2024

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Monday, 1 Apr 2024, 09:50

17 February 2024

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been working through the two set text I’ve chosen to write about: The Custom of the Country, and The Age of Innocence. I really like these texts. I’ve been re-reading them using my Kindle, highlighting sections, and adding some notes when have some reflections. As I read, I find earlier notes. When I read them, they looks strange: I can see an earlier version of myself reading the book, figuring out the words, settings and characters. I see earlier ideas of where the plot is moving to.

18 February 2024

It’s editing day. I have a go to make sense of all my notes. I have a set of headings, which relate to the question, which have emerged from the various notes that I’ve made from my reading.

19 February 2024

Whilst in the middle of my workday, I have another go at editing up my assignment. Although I feel I could draw on some of the additional materials, I’m starting to be roughly happy with what I’ve managed to pull together. I need to think of my word count.

I go in hard, cutting two big paragraphs which I’m really pleased with. If they don’t progress an argument, or help to emphasise any significant points, or they are tangential to the main aim of the essay, the words should go.

That’s it. My TMA 3 has gone in. It’s not my best work, but I feel as if I’ve learnt some things, which is, of course, the point.

20 February 2024

It’s first thing in the morning, before getting stuck in with my day job. I start reading the second book on my Kindle. I notice that there a couple of books that I need, but I haven’t got. Although this isn’t my preferred method of study (although I am getting increasingly used to it), I download the texts and get reading.

21 February 2024

Again, first thing in the morning, I’m reading my Kindle again. I finish reading the first chapter of the second book, and read a couple of takes from the set text. A reflection that I had was: I’m not making as many notes as I have done with other modules I’ve studied. Instead, I’m adding notes directly to the text using my Kindle, and saving more bookmarks than I’ve ever done before. I feel as if I’m learning things, but I do need to sort my notes out, now that I’m more than half way through the module. It’s hard to believe that there’s just one more TMA, and the EMA to go.

Before starting work, I login to the module website, tick off all the bits that I’ve completed, and have a quick look at TMA 4. Some students are saying that there is an option where you write a fairy tale! (Not to be confused with a fairy story; that is something that is totally different).

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A233 Journal - January 2024

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Monday, 1 Apr 2024, 09:50

7 January 2024

I’ve been doing a bit more than I’ve actually noted down, but this week has been quite light on the study, since I’m now back at work, and my inbox is a mess.

I began the week by receiving a reply to an email question I asked my tutor, which was about the choice of some text from Blunden to focus on. I’m mindful that I need to broaden out my choice a bit more. I then went onto read the module materials about Roy, which I found quite interesting.

This morning I’m starting to make electronic notes, which will form the basis of my TMA. I’m a bit less confident than I was the last time, since I don’t think I’ve mastered Blunden. There is so much that is going on in the text, and it feels overwhelming – which reflects, in part, what he is writing about.

I’ve started by looking at the English Literature Toolkit and have found my way to an OpenLearn resource called Approaching prose fiction. I’m going to summaries different techniques, write down some notes from my highlights, and go from there.

11 January 2024

Now that the new year has got underway, I’m now aware of a confluence of deadlines that are rapidly approaching. With these in mind, I email my tutor to ask her whether she is able to give me a potential extension, just so I have a bit of a cushion. Thankfully, that is possible. In return, she offers a reminder about TMA 3, which is coming up hot on the heels of TMA 2. I asked whether my book club choices were acceptable (they were), which was a relief.

I have a vague plan: Sunday (and perhaps a bit of Saturday) is going to be TMA writing and editing day. I have over 2k worth of words in the form of notes. I’m going to continuing to get everything down, summarising all my highlights and notes, before printing everything out, and starting to edit together an argument, and a sensible structure. Fingers crossed!

13 January 2024

There’s a ‘write now’ tutorial today. I’ve just got enough time to login to see what it is all about. Tomorrow is writing and editing day, along with a bit of further reading, of course. There were 80 students at the tutorial. I made a bunch of notes. Just before I got to the section on structure, I had to sort something out in the house; there was a birthday party going on in the background. This is one of the idiosyncrasies of online tutorials; you can slope off and do other things in the background if you need to. You can’t do this during face-to-face tutorials.

14 January 2024

It is writing day today. I spend the morning adding to my notes, and then I spend the afternoon deleting them again after realising that I had discovered a structure. Towards the end of the day, I run out of steam. All I have to do now is the conclusion bit at the end.

15 January 2024

First thing in the morning, after a coffee (which is the best time to write), I finish my conclusion, double space everything, and then get a printout.

16 January 2024

After reading through the TMA and making a few edits with a red pen, I transfer these corrections to my Word document, and send it off. I let my tutor know that I don’t need an extension. In return, she said I can upload revisions until the TMA cut-off date if I need to.

Towards the end of the day, I see that there is bit of Facebook chat about the book club choices. A fellow student has chosen the same option that I have, which is reassuring. Whilst I’ve already read my chosen text, I do need to re-read The Custom of the Country.

17 January 2024 

First thing in the morning, I access the module website and look at the TMA 3 question, and transfer an edited version of it to an empty TMA document. I create two headings, one for each text. If I were more organised, I could have just copied and pasted my completed Custom of the Country learning journal, if I had used it, to my TMA document. Looking at this again, I’m going to start to use this to prepare some notes. Despite being up to date, I’m now feeling a bit behind again!

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Christopher Douce

A233 Journal - December 2023

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Monday, 1 Apr 2024, 09:49

11 December 2023

I’m surprised that so much time has passed since my last note. 

I’ve done a couple of things, and one thing has happened.

Technically, I’m up to date with the block reading (but I’ve read through the blocks quite quickly), and I’m behind with the online activities. I’m also ahead with my reading of my book club preference, The Age of Innocence, but I’m behind on all my quizzes.

There is a tutorial this morning, which I’m hoping to attend, along with another one that takes place this evening. I think I’m remaining committed to Blunden, since I feel frustrated with both The God of Small things, and Hotel World. I’m drawn to the Blunden TMA 2 question.

The thing that has happened is that I’ve got my TMA result back. I’m happy with the result, but I would have liked to get a higher score, of course. My tutor has given me some helpful pointers about my writing, which I’ll try to integrate into my writing. Two practical tips I remember are: always italicise titles (I thought I had done that), and make sure that you don’t end a paragraph with a quote. The point here is: if you do this, what is the point?

My next steps: back to the module materials – but mainly the online materials. But before I go there, I need to do my own TMA marking. There are always things to do!

15 December 2023

I try to attend an online tutorial, but I was scuppered by technology.

I gave the OU IT helpdesk a ring, and it was all about a clash of cookies, but I suspect it could have been resolved really simply. Essentially, bits of the OU websites was getting muddled with my two accounts: my tutor account, and my student account. When I logged into the module page to access a tutorial, it wouldn’t let me in to the live version, or let me view any of the recordings.

After deleting all my cookies, everything seemed to start working again, but by then, my tutorial had passed.

I’ve realised that similar things can occur if I don’t close my browser between browser sessions. Now I’m a lot the wiser.

Anyway, I attended a tutorial that covered Blunden, Smith and Roy all in one session. I made a whole bunch of notes. Although I’m ahead on my novel reading, I’m a bit behind on the online materials.

17 December 2023

A day of two halves: the first was listening to a tutorial about Blunden (where I made a bunch of notes), and then I got back to the module website. What I really liked about the tutorial was the focus on the close reading, which will stand me in good stead for the TMA. When it came to the website I cheekily ticked off the module materials that are related to Roy and Smith (although I have read the block chapters), and realised I’m up to week 10.

Here's a note to self: I must complete the online activities that relate to Blunden. There is an activity question which is about memoir, which I think I know how I’m going to answer. I need to look at all the other ones, of course.

19 December 2023

I’ve completed my three posts for TMA 2! I picked up a trick, which was the ability to search for fragments of text, in the ePub for Far from the madding crowd, and within the downloaded version of the Blunden text, which I have on my Kindle. This made it a lot easier to pick two passages.

I quickly eyeballed the assignment question again. For some reason, I though it was about memory rather than what was being asked. This makes me question my own memory.

I have a plan of action: to re-read the block materials that I’ve worked through, to complete the online activity about reviews (there might be something interesting in there I might be able to use), and then do a close reading of Blunden again, whilst referring to the online map which a fellow student has mentioned. There’s also something called a 2015 edition which the module team recommends.

I think I’ve got all my Christmas reading all sorted.

26 December 2023

Boxing day. I found a bit of quiet time in the morning where I did a bit of reading. There’s quite a lot to a chapter I’ve been reading in Undertones of War. I made quite a lot of highlights using my Kindle.

27 December 2023

Reading the online materials for Week 11, and watching the short video about Blunden. I’ve also started to look at John Greening’s 2015 edition of Undertones of War, and I’ve noticed a comprehensive notes page, cross references to the text, and a comprehensive introduction. I’ve sent the notes pages and the introduction to my Kindle. I made a note of a point that the presenter made which struck me as being quite useful, and relevant to the TMA question.

I did try to complete the activity that was about book reviews, but I didn’t get very far. I only found a couple, and none of the ones that were mentioned in the module materials. I found the library instructions pretty confusing, and I was wondering whether I was pushing the wrong buttons. This said, I’ve never really thought of the significance of book reviews. A point was made was that they were written in the context in which a book appears. This means that they offer a particularly useful perspective.

One of my other actions of the day was to ask my tutor a question. I think I’m happy with the passage that I’ve chosen, but I wanted to get a feel for whether I’ve chosen something that is too big, and whether I should choose a couple of paragraphs, rather than a whole chapter. I am, however, mindful that there is quite a big word count.

I’m starting to feel a bit more confident, even though I have a long way to go before putting the broad structure of the text in my head, but I don’t think I need to do this for the TMA.

28 December 2023

The notes pages from Greening is pretty useless without the actual text. I go to the Week 10 online materials, download the PDF version, and email it to my Kindle.

I’ve also found the online map, which I need to look at. This resource reminds me of a similar resource that was used with The Custom of the Country.

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A233 Journal – November 2023

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Monday, 1 Apr 2024, 09:51

1 November 2023

I went to a tutorial about Wharton that was led by a member of the module team and a tutor. It was fabulous! We looked at some close reading skills, which I sense is something that I need to get better at. I asked some questions about the TMA, and got quite a few tips. What I need to do is to edit my TMA template, and get started with reading, and re-reading the passages that we have to analyse.

The presenters mentioned that it is a good idea to complete the module team’s version of the study log, which offers some guidance about reading, and gives us spaces to make some notes. I need to look at this. I also need to look at the activity for week 6, which I think is coming up soon. I’m not adhering to the study calendar as closely as I feel as I ought to; I’m in a situation where I’m trying to get ahead, but ‘life’ and ‘work’ things keep setting me back.

Another comment I’ll make is that I’m nearly through reading the Blunden text for the first time. There was an interesting comment in the tutorial that Wharton also wrote about WW1.

Just to remind myself: I need to edit up a TMA template, get my coloured pens out, and complete those Week 6 activities.

Back to the day job… 

11 November 2023

I’ve done quite a bit of reading. I’ve finished reading Blunden, which I found quite heavy going, and I’ve nearly found my way through The God of Small Things

This is my second time reading The God of Small Things. I first read it when it came out. I only got about a third of the way through before completely losing my way. Although I’m finding it quite a difficult read, I am getting into it, and its description. Since we have a choice in the next bit of the module, I think I’m still drawn to Blunden, but I will, of course, make my way through the module materials, just in case I change my mind at the very last minute.

It's time to prep for the writing of my TMA. 

I’ve already created a blank document with the title. My next step is to transcribe some of the headings from my tutorial notes onto the TMA document, so I remember what is important. When I’ve finished doing that, I’m going to go onto the close reading. My approach is to scribble on a printout of samples of text, with different colours of pen. I am to do my best to get a feel for the text, and hopefully come to a view about similarities and differences.

In between doing all of this, I’m going to go to the gym!

I did have a quick look at the study log files, which have been produced by the module team. I’m a bit worried that my study approach at the moment is predominantly strategic, rather than systematic. I have a lot on in my day job, and outside of my day job, which is why I’m a bit time poor at the moment. 

I need to follow my own advice, which is: “make an appointment with your own studies”.

16 November 2023

It’s TMA submission day!

After proof-reading a printout of my assignment, I make some last minute changes, and make a submission. 

My TMA is slightly under the word count, but I’m pretty happy with what I’ve submitted. I guess I’ll find out how I’ve done in a couple of weeks.

22 November 2023

Almost a week has passed and I’ve hardly done anything!

The last thing I’ve done, which was a couple of days ago, was to look at a book club activity, which was to listen to interviews with various academics about their favourite text, and why they should choose it.

Amongst all the options, I remain drawn to The Age of Innocence, for the simple reason that I really enjoyed The Custom of the Country. I don’t know whether comparing the book club text with a book by a different author would be a good idea. I guess this is a question for one of the tutorials, or to go directly to my tutor. Either way, I need to find some time to do some serious reading of The Age of Innocence.

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A233 Journal – October 2023

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Monday, 11 Dec 2023, 08:06

1 October 2023

The last thing I did yesterday was read though the first bit of the chapter about Wharton. I then had a cheeky look through some of the later chapters. I’m looking forward to the bit about Blunden.

I had a look at the learning journal document. I like how it is structured, but some of the headings need to be formatted.

It’s only a few more days to go before the official start date!

3 October 2023

Yesterday I got a bit ahead of myself, and started to read the introduction to the Blunden text, as well as a couple of the first section. I quite liked what I read. I’m also reminded to a recent BBC film; a biopic of Siegfried Sassoon.

Anyway, I’ve managed to get a printout of all the TMAs. For some weird reason, the printed text for TMAs 1 through 4 is smaller than the text for TMA 5. I have no idea why. I’ve also printed out the passages that form the basis of TMA 1. Another thing I’ve done is that I’ve emptied out an old A4 file.

4 October 2023

I’ve received an email notification of my place on a special study day that the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences are running at the London School of Economics in a couple of weeks’ time. It is quite curious since there is a frustrating pause on face-to-face tuition at the moment.

27 October 2023

Quite a bit of time has passed since my last entry! I have been busy, though. I’ve attended a tutorial, and have written a bunch of notes. I attended the Arts and Humanities day school and have written a summary of what happened at that event

I’ve also managed to do quite a bit of reading of the module materials. I’ve got as far as the first chapter which is about Blunden, and I’m just about halfway through the Blunden text. I’m really appreciating it (I’m using this word, since ‘enjoying’ doesn’t really seem to be the right word, given the subject matter).

I’m managing to snatch various bits of time to commit to my studies, but I feel that my day job (it is a nuisance having a day job) seems to be always pulling me in various directions. There are all these reviews and consultations that present perpetual and frustrating challenges.

I’m hoping to attend a tutorial tomorrow if I can find the time.

I also need to commit to writing a few more forum posts about Hardy. I’ve written one, which I think counts for the TMA, but I’m finding it quite difficult to engage. I think it is because the forum activities are forcing me to do a bit of work, which I think is the point.

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Christopher Douce

A233 Journal - September 2023

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Sunday, 9 June 2024, 11:02

I’ve read four of the set texts over the summer: Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd (which maddened me a bit), Wharton’s The Custom of the Country (which I loved), Carter’s The Bloody Chamber (which I was a bit ambivalent about), and a collection of stories from Anderson (which I quite enjoyed).

9 September 2023

I’ve been reading Ali Smith’s Hotel World. I have three sections to go.

10 September 2023

I finished Smith’s Hotel World. Whilst I really liked the opening chapter, I found the stream of consciousness chapter annoying and difficult. Whilst it might have been thoroughly rewarding to write from the author’s perspective, it makes the reader really work, and I just didn’t have the patience. I know we’ll get into looking at this, but it felt indulgent. I have mixed feelings, but we’ll see what is said in the module materials.

Talking of module materials, I open the first book and start reading the introduction, and the first chapter about Hardy and characterisation. I really like how the introduction is written. I must start to have a look around the module website, and to find if there is any on demand printing service for the study guides.

I keep looking at buying another second hand e-reader; one that has a bigger screen, so I can read the block PDFs more easily whilst I’m travelling; whilst my current e-reader does the job, I’m getting older – bigger screens are better screens!

22 September 2023

I realised that there were some books that I didn’t have, and I might need to read, so I went on eBay to look for a few. I was particularly intrigued by the science fiction book that was on the reading list. I used to be a huge sci-fi fan when I was a teen.

Yesterday I started to book onto tutorials for the entire year, guessing what direction I would like to go in terms of the book club choices. Over the summer I really enjoyed the Wharton text, so I’m really looking forward to The Age of Innocence.

Another thing that has happened: I’ve exchanged messages with my tutor! I’m not sure, but I think I recognise her name from A230.

Next step: to pick up reading of the block materials, and to try to get printouts of the study guides. The only thing: I don’t have access to a printer at the moment!

Looking back over this blog: I wasn’t keen on Hotel World. I really liked the start, but it didn’t do it for me. I look forward to learning more about how the module guides us through the text.

23 September 2023

It’s back on the module block again, and a bit of directed reading from Far from the Madding Crowd. I’m stuck by how closely we have to do the close reading! I have one more chapter to go (I shall revisit those two that I have read) before getting to the chapter about Wharton.

27 September 2023

My new books have arrived! I’ve put them in a pile. I think I’m going the read the science fiction one first, and The God of Small things last, if I don’t get distracted.

Talking of being distracted, I have again been looking at large screen e-readers so I can put all of the texts (module materials, and the books) on a single device. I need to stop procrastinating and get on with some reading.

30 September 2023

I did a bit of reading of the block, skim reading the final chapter of the last Hardy chapter. I liked the section that discussed the serialisation. This was giving me another perspective on the text. I also liked the question about whether the text had any subplots. 

After doing a bit more reading in a local café (and then bailing out when a group of noisy cyclists came in), I started to go through the module website properly, ticking off all the resources I looked at. So far I have: read the welcome letter, read the letter from the lead cluster manager, module guide and the audio clip that can be found in the studying literature page. I also had a look through the two bits of the English Literature Toolkit: how to study English Literature, and how to write an English Literature essay.

One thing I learnt about was the time planner. When I was a social science OU student, my tutor ran exactly the same activity, which I found really helpful. Reflecting on this, I need to do an hour (or so) of study in the morning, after breakfast, before doing my day job, just so I can keep on top of everything. 

Two other sections look helpful: the ‘being critical’ section, and the ‘practising headings for notes’ which suggests a number of handy headings to keep in mind whilst you are reading a text. I also hadn’t heard of the study diamond approach, which is completely new to me. The headings being: effects, meaning, techniques and context. (I think I forgot to write about context, when it came to my A230 emTMA).

The section on essay writing was useful, which highlights the following keywords and phrases: analyse, assess, compare, contrast, describe, discuss, examine, explain, how far … ?, synthesise, and to what extent … ? I also remember the PEAL approach to writing essays: point, evidence, analysis and evaluation, and linking sentence back to the question. Another suggestion (in the materials) is to have a three part structure: an argument, an opposing argument, then a compromise solution.

Here's some tips about close reading: what is the passage doing?, how is it doing it?, for what reasons?, and how does the bit of text relate to the wider text?

I’ve also noticed that all the TMA questions are available. When I get home, I’m going to print them all out. I’ve noted that TMA 5 is an emTMA which accounts for 40% of the overall module score, with all the other TMAs accounting for 15%. There is a threshold of 30% on the final TMA. I’ve also noticed that we have to make some forum posts. One thing I must remember is that the assessment guide also says how the module materials can be referenced.

I had a look at the module forum, and they appear to be pretty busy (one thread has over 100 posts), so I don’t subscribe to them. I’ll subscribe to the tutor group forum when it opens.

The final bits: a very brief study of the week 1 reading guidance (noting what I need to return to), and a quick look at the careers page and the learning journal document; it looks so long! Last of all, after checking off all the bits of the block I had read, was to eyeball the OU subjects and qualifications website which I have never seen before.

Now that I’ve got into the module website, and I’ve seen what some of the key resources are, I need to start to go through everything properly, and a bit more slowly.

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Christopher Douce

Preparing for the summer: A233 reading list

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At the start of October 2023 I will be studying A233 Telling stories: the novel and beyond. I usually take a few books on holiday with me. To give myself a bit of a head start, I’m going to get through some of the books that feature on A233 reading list.

What follows are list of books that will be discussed within A233, in the order that I understand they are studied. Where possible, I’ve provided a link to a version from Project Guttenberg which can be downloaded to an eReader.

If you do make use of the Guttenberg version, do note that there may well be significant differences between the text that is officially recommended by the module team, and the downloaded version. The editorial that the officially recommended text may well be useful.

Hardy, T.: Falck-Yi, S.B. (ed) Far from the Madding Crowd, Oxford World's Classics, ISBN 9780199537013

Wharton, E.: Orgel, S. (ed) The Custom of the Country, Oxford World's Classics, ISBN 9780199555123

Smith, A. Hotel World, Penguin, ISBN 9780140296792

Blunden, E. Undertones of War, Penguin, ISBN 9780141184364

Roy, A. The God of Small Things, 4th Estate, ISBN 9780006550686

Perrault, C.: Betts, C. (trans.) The Complete Fairy Tales, Oxford World's Classics, ISBN 9780199585809

A direct equivalent to this text isn’t available through Project Guttenberg, but there is a collection that has the title: The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault by Charles Perrault

Grimm, J. & Grimm, W.: Crick, J. (trans.) Selected Tales, Oxford World's Classics, ISBN 9780199555581

I’m assuming that Grimm is read at the same time as the other texts that relate to fairy tales. A direct equivalent isn’t available through Project Guttenberg, but there is a different collection that is available: Grimms' Fairy Tales by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm

Andersen, H.C. Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales: A Selection, Oxford World's Classics, ISBN 9780199555857

Like with both Grimm and Perrault, there isn’t a direct equivalent in Project Guttenberg, but there is a broader collection which can be downloaded: Andersen's Fairy Tales by H. C. Andersen

Carter, A. The Bloody Chamber, Vintage, ISBN 9780099588115

Armitage, S. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Faber and Faber, ISBN 9780571223282

Gaiman, N. & Vess, C. Stardust, DC Comics (Vertigo), ISBN 9781401287849

Le Guin, U. The Dispossessed, Gollancz, ISBN 9781857988826

Shakespeare, W.: Orgel, S. (ed) The Tempest, Oxford World's Classics, ISBN 9780199535903

Although the raw text of The Tempest is readily available for download, it is worth nothing that the introduction and the editorial comments from these Oxford World’s classics versions are really useful in terms of figuring out what is going on.

A233 has a ‘book club’ section, where students will choose one book from the following:

Smith, A. Girl Meets Boy, Canongate Books, ISBN 9781786892478 

Sassoon, S. Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, Faber and Faber, ISBN 9780571064106 

Hardy, T. Wessex Tales, Wordsworth Editions, ISBN 9781853262692 

Anand, M.R. Untouchable, Penguin, ISBN 9780141393605

Wharton, E.: Orgel, S. (ed) The Age of Innocence, Oxford World's Classics, ISBN 9780199540013 

A disclaimer. I’m going on what I understand was covered during the previous presentation of A233. Future presentations may well present things differently, and use different texts.

Looking forward: when I get started with A233 properly, I’ll be using this blog to share my study log. I’m sharing this, so I can hold myself to account.

Acknowledgements: this reading list has been directly liberated from the A233 module website. 

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