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A230 Journal – December 2022

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3 December 2022

I manged to find a bit of time to go through the additional Wordsworth resources. There’s a short video, and a further poem which is called “Michael: a pastoral” which I printed out. This section emphasised the connection between his cottage, his immediate environment and his poems.

I quite liked one of the activities, which was digging into a biographical dictionary that everyone can access through the OU library website. 

I discovered something really interesting. Wordsworth had been inspired to go on a grand tour, after reading a book that was written by a historian and travel writer called William Coxe (Wikipedia). I’ve barely read anything from this period, and yet I’ve read some of the words from this chap, who wrote about his travels around Poland, Russia and Sweden. It is also interesting due to the emphasis that A230 gives to travel writing.

I digress slightly.  I also learnt about a connection between Wordsworth and Thomas De Quincey and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

All my notes are roughly in order, and I’ve scanned the TMA 3 question. I’ll also share the obvious, which is: never use Wikipedia in a TMA!

My final bit for the day, a forum activity.

The activity question is: what [do] you understand by Romanticism, and why you think that the forum is entitled ‘Romantic Lives’?

My reply follows:

Great question! I guess there's what I understand by the term romanticism right now, and how I might understand it by the end of the block.

At the moment (at the time of writing), I don't have (in my head) a firm definition, but a sense that it is something that is linked to the majesty of the natural world and landscapes, and how theses can instil within us heightened emotion, which can then be expressed through writing. In all this there's the notion of the individual, but I'm not quite sure where I've got this from.

In terms of what is meant by lives, perhaps it relates to how the environment influences and inspires people in different ways? I know that Shelly was inspired through a connection with the alps? I'm a bit hazy on the detail.

I discovered something interesting through the Wordsworth biography activity. He apparently went on a bit of a grand tour, inspired by reading a historian and travel writer called William Coxe, whilst he was studying at Cambridge. I have never read Wordsworth (and I'm struggling a bit, to be honest!), Shelly, but randomly I have read a bit of Coxe!

Coming back to the question, I'm mindful to look at a book called "A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory" by Cuddon, which we can access through the OU library. A key (bit of a) sentence that seems to link back to my first stab at a definition are: "the ideals of romanticism included an intense focus on human subjectivity, an exaltation of Nature ... " (p.623) (the sentence is quite long!)

5 December 2022

A visit to a dentist in Lincolnshire. I’m not having any treatment done, though; I’m a designated driver for the day.

I sit in reception and fish out the second book from my bag, and try to read the chapter about Shelly. It was difficult to concentrate over the cheerful, and very distracting music that can be found in dentists. I realise that I have briefly read all the sections that I was reading. I now need to look over the poems in the reader, and try to get back to Wordsworth, which I’m struggling with.

17 December 2022

I’ve had an inadvertent break from study; I’ve been marking some TMAs, and helping a family member.

On 10 December, I went to see a performance of Othello (Guardian review) at the national theatre. Although the date of the performance was too late to coincide with the date of my previous TMA, I did find it very interesting, especially when thinking about how it differs to the other performances I’ve seen.

The following radio programme was shared on the A230 facebook group: In Our Time, Frankenstein by Mary Shelly (BBC). To get back into study, I made a bunch of notes. 

It’s now time to return to the block materials, to remember where I was, and then get back to Wordsworth, as I had promised myself.

18 December 2022

It’s “figuring out Wordsworth” day, which means doing some reading. 

I’ve discovered I take things in more easily if I listen to them. When reading Wordsworth, I’ve found my mind easily wanders off. To help, I’ve found a number of recordings on YouTube of some of the poems that are mentioned in our readings book.

The first one is Reading 1.2, Point Rash Judgement, from line 40 onwards

The next one is a fragment from Reading 1.4, Home at Grasmere, lines 130 through 170. (I can't find a complete reading). The YouTube channel looks interesting!

A reading of Reading 1.3, The Brothers. I have no idea what version is read, but it's pretty close to the version that we have in the reader. I understand it a bit better now! (I can't help but feel the use of blank verse is a bit contrived!)

A final Wordsworth reading. This time, Reading 1.6, a section from book 5, from The Prelude (I don't think the module materials explains very well what The Prelude is all about, since I remain a bit lost). If you go to the 20 to 32 min mark, you'll find lines 450 onwards through to 557.

Finally, something a bit different. Reading 2.2: Ode to the West Wind, as read by Michael Sheen.

I’m jumping around a bit today. I finish the day by reading the block material about Frankenstein.

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A230 Journal – November 2022

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Saturday, 17 Dec 2022, 16:09

12 November 22

I went to the London School of Economics for a face-to-face day school about prose, and two of the set texts: Candide and Oroonoko. There were two tutors on the day, and they gave us some small activities to carry out.

Our first tutor asked us to look at some bits of text, and assess it in terms of some of the technical language that was being introduced through the module. Our second tutor asked us to write on a post-it note: what was Oroonoko all about? Given that I had read Oroonoko over the summer (along with some of the other set texts), I struggled to carry out this task.

During the tutorial, I made a lot of notes.

One thing that I found really useful was that the tutors gave quite a lot of background information about the texts. I especially appreciated how they summarised the historical context. On the point about context, I noted down that there are a number of perspectives to consider: biographical context, historical context, philosophical, political and cultural.

Two things I need to look at: what the term ‘focalisation’ means, and ‘free indirect speech', which is something that Joyce uses.

The tutors were excellent! By the end of the day school, my head hurt. In a good way.

13 November 22

It’s time to catch up with some study admin. 

I sort out all my notes from the day school, sort them in order. I have some other printouts that I prepared earlier this month. I have printed out each of the TMAs, and the EMA. I put everything together in my study file in date order, so everything relates back to the module calendar. (I also look for a neat one or two page summary of this on the module website, but there isn’t one).

I review the study calendar, and realise that I’m not too far off the schedule; I had to take a week out from study to help with some family things. I tick of the various items, and realise that I need to go through the poetry tutorial materials.

I have two objectives for the week; work through the materials that relate to Oroonoko (whilst strategically very quickly reviewing the text), before moving onto the week that focusses on Voltaire, whilst also trying to find the time to review the poetry tutorial materials.

A point I remember from the day school I attended was: it’s okay if you don’t understand everything in one go; you need to return to these tutorials on a number of occasions to get a firm grasp of the concepts.

A note to self: I need to have another go to create a “first thing in the morning” study habit. 

It’s time for a break. When I return, I’m going to return to the study calendar, look at the notes for this week and next week, and then read the block materials again.

14 November 22

Well, I didn’t manage to do my studying first thing in the morning. Instead, I got onto it after resolving a few issues by email.

Yesterday my tutor had emailed me a set of notes which he had shared at the day school. Having printed them out, I worked through them, underlining some of the key concepts. I then filed them next to my day school notes.

After reviewing what I have to do for week 7, I have another look at the prose and poetry skills tutorials. I make a note of all the key concepts that are shared through these documents.

I notice that there was a reference to four audio recordings about the ‘long eighteenth century’. These recordings emphasise the historical role travel writing has during the time of empires, and how they have influenced the development of the novel. An interesting comment was how Oroonoko isn’t just a travelogue; it is also a romance. The audio clips also highlighted the role of the grand tour, and how here was a market for travel books.

As a very brief aside, around 15 years ago, I found a really interesting book (published by a publisher called ‘forgotten books’) about early travel writing in Poland. For a while, I found it fascinating, but I didn’t really know what I was reading. Although it was published in the 19th century, I can now see that the book was a part of a wider and more established tradition of travel writing.

All this discussion about travel writing has been a lovely surprise. Some years ago, I made my own very modest contribution to the genre, through a book sized blog called Meetup 101: a journey through a midlife crisis. Whilst it aims to adopt a comic mode (I’m applying terms from the skills tutorial!) It’s focus accidentally reflects some of the later themes in A230: cities.

My next bit of reading: the two chapters from the block, and then I’m going to focus on Candide, and then I might be in a good place to be set for the next TMA.

15 November 22

I’ve read the block chapters on Aphra Behn, and have read most of the chapter on Voltaire; I have a bit more to go, which I’ll hopefully manage to get through tomorrow.

In the evening, there was a tutorial! Our tutor took us through bits of the two texts from this block: Oroonoko and Candide. She introduced the context for each of these books, and we looked at some detailed passages. I made notes, and I feel a bit more confident about how to tackle the TMA.

Before getting there, I have to finish reading that chapter, and also read Candide again, now that I have more of an idea about what it is all about.

20 November 22

I have a day off from just about everything, so I settle down to read Candide again, paying particular attention to the introduction. After learning more about the context through the previous two tutorials I’ve attended I’m finding it a whole lot more interesting and enjoyable. Voltaire is funny, often through his understatement, but also (of course) his hyperbole.

My next steps: finish reading the 6 remaining chapters and then have a quick look through the notes that can be found at the back of the book. I also need to return to the module website to see what other materials I’ve got to go through.

There’s a tutorial tomorrow night, but it’s one that is recorded. I’ll try to go along if I can.

21 November 22

I had a quiet night, so I finished reading the final chapters of Candide.

It turns out that the tutorial isn’t tonight. It’s tomorrow.

22 November 22

First thing this morning I logged into the module website to see when the next TMA is due. It is sooner than I thought. This means that I need to get on and do my TMA over the weekend, perhaps on a Saturday or a Sunday.

My notes folder is getting a bit full, so I’ve moved it to a lever arch file, and have even added some dividers to separate to mark where the TMAs are.

I’m hoping to attend the tutorial this evening.

24 November 22

I transfer notes into my TMA document, and have started to analyse the text which forms the basis of the assignment. I pull together notes I made from tutorials, and points shared in documents that were prepared by the tutors.

I have three things to do before I can start writing properly: read the notes pages at the back of Candide, read the introduction again, and have another look at the block materials, making notes of certain paragraphs and sentences that will help me to summarise what a passage of Candide is all about.

25 November 22

It is TMA writing day. After making a start with the introduction yesterday, I work through the different bits of text that I’ve noticed, connecting them to some of the technical language we have been introduced to, and various quotes that I’ve noted down from Candide and the set text.

If I were writing a longer essay, I would have prepared an essay plan, but since this is quite short, and the aims and focus are quite clear, I’m winging it- My structure comes from the fragment of text that I have annotated, and the order in which I answer the questions. My results will tell me whether I’m adopting the right approach.

I finish the day by getting a printout of my TMA.

26 November 22

I begin the day by reviewing and copy editing my TMA, and then submitting it 5 days before the cut-off date.

Keeping up the momentum, I find out what I’ve got to do for week 10, and reach for Book 2: Romantics & Victorians.

I start to read some of the Wordsworth sections in the reading supplement, but I didn’t make much progress. I need a lot of concentration for Wordsworth, but I don’t seem to have this!

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A230 Journal – October 2022

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Saturday, 17 Dec 2022, 16:05

2 October 22

I went to the module website, and saw a load of introductory posts. One of them was to a video of a production of Othello (YouTube). I opened it up, and then thought I would need to find some time to go through it, with the set text, like I had done with the other performance.

I found the tutor group forum, and introduced myself. It seemed that all three people (including the tutor) had studied at Birkbeck. I said I was the fourth.

I printed off a couple of attachments that my tutor had sent me: one that was a checklist for close reading of renaissance drama, and the other was a single page document that had the title: some ways of analysing renaissance drama. The checklist looks quite detailed.

Picking up where I was last, I went to the module website, made notes of questions I should ask myself whilst reading the text, and returned to chapter 1, which I have yet to finish.

7 October 22

Watched 1 hr and 20 mins of the 1990 production of Othello.

It was very different to the other production I saw, which was a National Theatre production (available through Drama Online).  I’m beginning to remember the structure, and I can see more about how Iago manipulates those who are around him.

9 October 22

Finished watching the remaining half of Othello, and then got distracted looking at Wikipedia biographies of some of the actors. A link to a production of The Duchess of Malfi (YouTube) was shared on a WhatsApp group. This is something else to look at.

Back to the module material; specifically, chapter 1 of block 1.

10 October 22

I think I might have found a study habit again: first thing in the morning! I delved into the week 2 material, and watched the two videos: the first compared two performances of Othello, and the second looked at a performance of Othello in South Africa. I then had a look at the drama study skills tutorial, parts 3.1 and 3.2. I had forgotten I had looked at these before!

There are two bits of reading I need to do this week: chapter 2 of the block, and I need to get into the introduction of the Othello set text, since it was mentioned a couple of times in some of the module materials.

12 October 22

I didn’t start first thing in the morning. Instead, I started after replying to my first group of emails. 

I got into chapter 2 of the block, which took me off to acts 3 and 4 within Othello. It has struck me that I haven’t, yet, got a really thorough grasp of what happens and when. Instead, in my memory, I’ve got a rough sketch of what happens, and who does what to whom.

I’m starting to pick up on the most important speeches, and chapter 2 has alerted me to some of the themes that I need to be mindful of. A conclusion: I need to read this chapter again, and loop back to the activities, to return to the text.

14 October 22

I suddenly remembered: had I missed any tutorials that have been recorded? There is a bit of chat on the WhatsApp group bout student enjoying an Othello tutorial. I go to the forums are, and look around for recorded tutorials, and none are available, so I haven’t missed any. 

15 October 22

I’m onto week 3! I tick all the items for week 2, to indicate that I’ve “done them” (but I’m likely to go back to doing some of them again), and then noticed a news item about “print on demand” materials, i.e., a printout of all the weekly study guides, and other information. I decide to get this, as otherwise I would be spending more than that on my own printer ink. I also need to check what I have, and haven’t downloaded onto my eBook reader.

The next two weeks seem to be all about John Webster. The key actions this week will be read the Duchess of Malfi, listen to an audio version of the play, and read chapter 3 of the module book.

21 October 22

I took delivery of the print on demand material, and put everything into my A230 file, adding my own notes. That’s about it today, but I’m feeling virtuous that I’ve got my study materials all in one place. Also, all my books are on my bookshelf, which is good news too.

I have a look at the study calendar, to remind myself of the date for the first TMA: 3 November, which isn’t too far away; I need to be a bit more strategic. I listen and make notes of the tutorial that my tutor has recorded. He covers a lot of detail, but he gives me some ideas about how I should go about tackling TMA 1.

22 October 22

A busy day today, since I’m on my own today, so eventually I get into the study zone.

I sort out an empty TMA file and print out a copy of my TMA 1. I find the text from TMA 1 within the version of Othello that we’re using, and I read bits before and after the scene, to get an idea about where it is situated within the whole of the play. I annotate my text with comments, giving me some ideas to start with.

My next steps will be to revisit the drama skills workshop, and transfer key terms from there, and from notes shared by our tutor, onto my blank TMA submission file.

Next up: I start to listen to the Duchess of Malfi radio play, whilst sitting with the set text, but I very quickly discover it is hopeless; the radio edit is very different to the version of the text that I’m using. I get up to track 15 of the first CD, after having looked at the questions from the week’s study material. I then quickly read chapter 3 of the textbook that came with the module, skipping over the activities. A note to myself: I need to read it all again, and revisit the activities, especially if I choose the drama option for the EMA. I also need to listen to the second CD; I wasn’t aware that I needed to go through both of these. These are long plays!

A strategic study plan for the week: look at the literary terms introduced in the module by looking at the tutor’s material and the drama tutorial, make sure that I’ve got the referencing of the OU module materials sorted, and then start to tackle the TMA. Also, do this first thing in the morning before I get stuck into too many emails!

29 October 22

It’s writing day! Following a direction from our tutor about the title, I update my TMA document with a new title; the old version was a bit too long. I then go about collating different notes from various documents that our tutor has shared, and find my notes from his tutorial. I transfer key points from my notes, to create new notes. I also create headings in the TMA, which I will later delete when I bring everything together. What I might do is write a short blog about organising myself.

After having organised myself, I then go onto writing the TMA, drawing on some pencil notes that I had made on a paper copy of the TMA. I also look through a whole set of pencil annotations I have made in the set text.

Eventually, everything comes together, and I have a draft TMA. I think I’ve tackled the main points, but there might well be something that I may miss, but I’m pretty happy with how I’ve expressed my understanding of the passage.

In anticipation of tomorrow’s work, I printout a version of my TMA.

30 October 22

I spend about 30 minutes reading through what I have written, and make some minor corrections on paper, and then edit these changes in my Word document. After making some minor formatting changes (changing 1.5 spacing to double-spaced, which is what the arts assessment guide suggest) I scan through it one more time, and decide that it is good to go.

Back to the module website. I notice the forum, which I haven’t really engaged with, so I have a look around, and see an interesting post about our experiences of watching Shakespeare performances. I make a posting; a short anecdote about seeing Hamlet at the cinema when I was 13 or 14.

I notice that a tutor had posted up another resource, which featured a couple of technical words I hadn’t used. I face a dilemma: should I take account of these within my TMA, or l should I let this go? I choose to let it go, since I’m pretty happy with what I’ve done, and I feel I’ve followed advice that was given by my own tutor.

My final actions of the morning: I tick of a few items from the module calendar, have a go at the quiz, and start to have a look at the materials for week 6. I’m a bit nervous about Candide and Oroonoko, to be honest. To get a bit ahead, I get stuck into reading a part of chapter 5, entitled: Aphra Behn, Oroonoko, or The Royal Slave. I then go back a bit listen to the two screen casts, before working through the key bits of terminology that are featured within the prose and poetry skills tutorial.

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A230 Journal - September 2022

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Sunday, 13 Nov 2022, 09:55

I’m studying again! This time I’m studying A230 Reading and studying literature (OU website)

When I was at school, something clicked in place when I was studying from my English Literature GCSE. I had moved up from a remedial English group to a higher stream, where I managed to get a pretty respectable score. It was a subject I quite enjoyed.

When I was taking my exams, I didn’t have much confidence. I didn’t think I would get sufficient scores to take A levels (which sounded pretty intimidating), so I opted for a vocational subject that I hoped would lead to employment. You would say I’ve ‘dabbled’ in the arts, but I’ve never properly studied it.

This blog series follows earlier posts that relate to earlier study of A111 Discovering the arts and humanities (blog) and A112 Cultures (blog).

Some of the links shared within this blog are likely to be only available to either current students, or students studying the module, but it is hoped that any accompanying descriptions are helpful to anyone who might be interested in any of the modules that I've mentioned.

10 September 22

The module website is open before the official start date, so I’m starting to have a look around. 

I find the welcome letter from the module team (which I got in the printed pack), and eyeball the study calendar. I note that the weeks where there is a cut-off date are highlighted in orange. I have a watch of the introductory video. Key points: critical awareness, tutorials, tragedies, cities, the theme of home and abroad, assessments and accompanying resources. 

Next up: the module guide, which introduces the six parts. Key concepts I’ve noted from the guide: context, the author, the reader and reading, period, and literatures. Another important point I’ve noted is that there is an expectation of studying for 14 hours per week. There are five TMAs, and an EMA, and there are some skills tutorials that you need to complete before working on TMAs 2 and 3. It looks like there are five face-to-face day schools (if they are running, I’ll try to go to as many as I can), along with online equivalents.

After returning to the module website, I start to look through the welcome forum, and discover the English Literature toolkit https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=1859527 There are two big headings in this toolkit: how to study English literature, and how to write an English literature essay. 

This first section looks pretty big, so I’m going to go back to it later. An important bit looks like ‘learning to be a critic’ since I feel as if I’m okay with time keeping and making notes (but I need to go through those too). Another link is the English subject page. I note that there’s a section about bridging material, called Moving onto Stage 2

Key tips from a video: the pace of the materials, being more critical, spending more time online in different forums, attend tutorials, the materials are more in depth, plan your essays, do your referencing. 

There was a video summary of A233 Telling stories: the novel and beyond, which I couldn’t resist viewing. After returning to the forum, I saw a post to a BBC programme: The Duchess of Malfi: BBC Arts at the Globe (BBC iPlayer) which looks like a good watch (when I get to it in the materials).

Onto the week 1 study guide. I’ve ticked off the welcome letter, video, and module guide. The aims are to read the first part of the module text, and focus on Act 1 of Othello, and then read chapter 1 of the module book. I now know what I need to do! I’m going to make notes when I get to the activities, but for now, I’ll continue to look through the materials. 

I scan through the Resources section, the Downloads section, and the glossary.

A final action before stopping; I’ve found a place to store all my notes, and I’ve got a pad of A4 paper, and set of pens. This means I’m ready to go!

11 September 22

I’ve read the introductory section of the book, and have completed the first activity, but I found it pretty hard going. The text of Othello is very dense, and there’s a lot of take in during the first 80 lines. To complete the activity, I’ve made a few notes.

Continuing my look around on the module website, I have a quick look at the assessments. TMA 1, which is all about analysing a fragment of text, doesn’t look to be too difficult. The TMA sends me off to look at section 4 of the assessment guide, which is in the same section where the TMA is located. Since I need to take all this in, and closely follow the assessment guidance, print out the assessment handbook, and file it in my new folder.

14 September 22

There was a bit of chat in the module WhatsApp group, where students were sharing the initials of tutors they had been allocated to. Noticing this, I logged into the module page to see if I was allocated a tutor, and I had! I think I recognise the name from tutorials from an earlier module, but this is not a tutor that I’ve had before. 

I managed to read three pages of the assessment guide. 

15 September 22

I’ve noticed that the tutorial dates are now available. I book into as many as I can, saving events to my Outlook calendar. 

17 September 22

I get an email from my tutor. I send him a quick reply.

I return to reading the assessment handbook, and get as far as TMA 2. This takes me to two other sets of pages, both of which I’ve printed out: assessment information for arts modules, and the drama skills tutorial. I also head off down a resource that is all about employability, which is called FutureYou. I’m introduced to OneFile, which I don’t tend to use, and there’s an accompanying template that I look through. I made note of the OU employability framework, since I feel that it might be useful later. It’s interesting to see that there’s a place to store reflections against each element in the framework, and there’s a section that is specific for the English Literature qualification pathway. 

When looking through FutureYou, I get as far as the Identifying and planning section. I’ve not really done much in the way of reading or looking at texts, but one other good thing that I’ve done today is that I’ve organised my bookshelf. I’ve got rid of some books, and there’s now space for all my literature books. 

One thing I’m thinking of is, whether I could start to use OneNote to make a study log.

18 September 22

Back to looking at the employability framework. I found an assessment tool, where I could rate myself on each of the 10 items on the employability framework. I found this interesting, but I did question whether some of the items were immediate relevant to what I was studying. I also discovered a page that relates elements of the framework to the TMAs, which offered a suggestion about some of the activities I would be carrying out later on during my study.

I’ve decided not to use OneNote, for the reason that I’ve got my own methodology, which makes use of paper based notebooks. I also tend to create different files (sets of notes) for different things. I find I learn when writing things down, and I use my visual memory to recognise papers which I’ve written on. Whilst I could more easily search for things in OneNote, I’m happy with my current study approach. For other forms of note taking and writing, I use Word documents.

It’s back to the reading of the assessment handbook. I’ve read the assessment information for arts modules, and I’ve found the EMA question.

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