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Christopher Douce

A233 Journal - December 2023

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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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Christopher Douce

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

Arts and humanities day school 2023

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Friday, 27 Oct 2023, 20:54

On 14 October 23, I went to part of an OU Arts and humanities day school, organised by the Faculty of Arts and Social Science (FASS) which took place at the London School of Economics.

There are a couple of reasons to write this short piece. The first is to remember what happened during the event and to be able to share some of the points from the session with fellow students. The other purpose is to share with other faculties and schools what the FASS faculty has managed to do.

Although the session was run for the whole of the day, I only attended the afternoon session, which was all about literature. The morning session was all about study skills. For students who need advice of study skills, I do recommend the OU skills for study website.

Part 1: Things to know about literature

There were two parts to the English Literature strand. The first session was all about discussing what literature was all about, what is it for, and how is it studied. It was facilitated by staff tutors and cluster managers, Tim Hammond and Liz Ford.

During this session, we were asked some questions, and were encouraged to speak with fellow students to attempt to answer the question, or arrive at some definitions.

What follows is a summary of those questions, and some of the key bullet, or takeaway points that emerged from both the group and plenary discussions.

What is literature?

It is about storytelling; there are characters, plots and narrative.

It is about words, texts and the structure of language, but it can also be about oral communication, such as drama and plays.

It is also about responding to and interpreting texts. Also, a point of view is important.

Literature can be used to create new worlds.

It can also be used to develop and maintain culture.

Also, the notion of THE CANON was mentioned. There will be more of this a bit later.

What is literature for?

To entertain, to educate, and to suggest or facilitate change, to consider different worlds, and to make a record of something.

There are also some negative reasons: it can be used for propaganda.

Literature can be used to share experiences, and to expand horizons.

One point was emphasised: entertainment. Although it sounds frivolous, entertainment is important!

Why do we study literature?

To understand different ways of communication, to understand what is considered to be important (which links back to The Canon).

Through studying literature, we become more critically aware, become better writers, and can more readily contribute to academic debates.

It allows us to gain a deeper understanding of texts, and how they are constructed.

Understand different points of view.

How do we study literature at the OU?

The OU approach is to have interpretive journeys through texts. I made a note of something called reception theory, which will be explored in level 3 modules in more detail.

During the modules, there will be texts that you have never heard of, and texts that have been translated.

Students will understand how books (text) may come into being, in the sense that books exist within a context and within an economy. Texts now exist within a digital world.

Within the modules, there is a lot of optionality and choices when it comes to the assessment, leading to more flexibility in level 3.

What can you do with literature?

One of the points made in just was: you could (potentially) become a bestselling novelist! (This was made in jest, since it is very difficult to become a best selling novelist).

Due to time was short, a key point was made: do speak with the careers office; they have a wealth of advice to offer.

Part 2: Evaluating negative responses to reading in life and in fiction

The second bit of the day, presented by Shafquat Toweed, who is the chair of A334 (and has written some of the materials for A233, which I’m currently studying) had the feel of being a research talk.

Shaf’s research is all about reading in literature (which does gets mention in A233). In an EU project he mentions, members of the public are invited to send in post cards that relate to their experiences of reading.

I found Shaf’s presentation fascinating since I have never been to a research talk about literature before. I have heard that ‘presenting a paper’ in the discipline of literature is a little different to ‘presenting a paper’ in the sciences.

I learnt that there is something called the UK Reading Experience database. Shaf also mentioned an EU project, called Read-it: Reading Europe Advanced Data Investigation Tool.

Towards the end of his presentation, he took us through the plot of a story, where reading of fiction led one of the main characters to an untimely demise. One must emphasise that this was fiction, about fiction, and this isn’t anything we should be unduly worried about.

Reflections

I went to this event since I needed to give myself a motivation boost.

I have a lot on at the moment and I worry about my studying of A233 will become subsumed under everything else I need to do. I’m studying literature for a number of reasons: it may add something to the other work I’m doing, it is something that I’ve always wanted to do.

During the first session, I won an OU pencil! 

Admittedly, I won it for being “arrogant”, and was encouraged to “join the scientists” for claiming that I was able to define, without any difficulty, what literature was all about.

Upon reflection, the answers that everyone shared in the plenary discussions were a whole lot more nuanced than the answers that I gave. Whilst I do predominantly align myself with the scientists, I am aware that I need to be more comfortable with nuance and opinion.

There was a real buzz about this face-to-face event. It was also something that got booked up really quickly, which suggests that there was a lot of demand for events like these. It was also notable that these events only take place in two locations: London and Glasgow. I really liked that I was able to chat with fellow students; we spoke about levels and texts, and shared some practical study skills.

It was also notable that students who were not able to attend this event have been asking what happened during the day school. In some senses, this blog aims to act as a bit of bridge. Sharing online what happened during face-to-face sessions underlines my belief that face-to-face, when done well, has the potential to help all students, irrespective of whether or not they are able to attend.

Well done FASS for running such a useful event. One day, I hope that I will be able to run an induction session for all our new computing students. Face-to-face is important. We need it to come back.

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