OU blog

Personal Blogs

Picture of Christopher Douce

A111 Journal - May 2021

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Christopher Douce, Thursday, 20 May 2021, 17:50

1 May 21

It was a quiet day, so I settled down to read the final two chapters of the final book: the chapter about Buddhism and the chapter about philosophy. I got part way through the Buddhism one, and then needed a sleep! I don’t think this any reflection on the quality of the writing or the topic, but rather that I was tired from a very busy week.

I also noticed an interesting article in the Saturday newspaper: Germany first to hand back Benin bronzes looted by British. Although I expected I would focus on the theatre and music question, I feel drawn to the history and art question. I think I’ve made my mind up about what I’m going to do for TMA 6.

2 May 21

I finished my first read of the final two chapters of the Crossing Boundaries book. I’m a little unsure about what “the noble eightfold path” in Buddhism means in a practical sense, but the chapter was more about informing students about different traditions and leading students onto a chapter on philosophy. I enjoyed the section which described Hume, and the descriptions about rationalism and empiricism.

It’s got to a point where I need to be strategic. 

My next steps are to work through the online materials that relate to the history of Benin, and art history, and make a bunch of notes. I then need to make a TMA plan and start writing since I need to submit my TMA 6 early. Although I understand that I may have technically passed the module due to my averages, going through the TMA writing process may well help me learn a few more things (and develop a few more skills). I’ve decided to set myself a target: to get everything done in two weeks, which is a week before the cut-off date.

13 May 21

I’ve read though the online materials, with the exception of listening to the audio materials.

Today I’m going back over some of the printed materials whilst on a short holiday in Dorset. As well as reading a couple of chapters, I’ve managed to get a couple of walks in. Although I didn’t read very much, it was helpful remember what bits I can find where when I begin to pull everything together.

16 May 21

After a day and a bit of marking TMAs, it’s back to study again.

I have five objectives today: to listen to the audio material, to listen to a video that was shared on the A111 Facebook group, to finish my re-reading, re-read the TMA question a couple of time, and then to start the essay. I’ll also have a look around to see if there are any recordings of tutorials that might be useful too. 

Just before I settled down to write my TMA, I decided to have a quick look at the module website just to make sure I had ticked everything off, and there wasn’t anything further I needed to look at. I realised I had missed a unit! I worked through the materials, made a bunch of notes, revisited my previous TMA feedback, and looked at some notes about preparing the final TMA. Finally, I had a good look at the EMA question again, making a couple of notes about what I need to include.

I had planned on writing the whole TMA in a day, but instead, I was scuppered by finding more materials to study. It was time well spent. Now that I worked through the additional audio and video material, I feel as if I’m just about ready to go with the writing.

18 May 21

The writing begins. 

Writing directly into the word processor, I laid out a set of headings that related to the broad structure of the essay, ticking off some points I had written on a physical piece of paper as I go. 

When the broad structure was settled, I crafted the opening paragraph, the introduction. I then started to flesh out different sections, and asked myself the question: “why didn’t I bookmark the chapters with post-it notes?”

I turned my attention to an important aspect of the essay: describing one of the artworks that were mentioned in the module materials. After a couple of hours of editing, writing and re-writing, I started to get tired, so I decided to call it a day.

19 May 21

The writing continues. 

I reminded myself of the headings I had set out, and then tackled the historical text bit of the essay, reviewing one of the primary sources from the module materials. I then moved onto referring some of the materials that were features on the module website. After a bit of restructuring, I wrote the conclusion. I hope I wasn’t going too far, but I also shared a personal opinion. My thinking was that an opinion would help to personalise the essay, and also express some of the ideas I had been learning.

After a few more hours, I felt that my TMA 6 was pretty much there and ready to go.

20 May 21

A bit of proof reading, and a small number of corrections. I’m about 100 words short of the word count, but I’m happy with what I’ve written, so it’s going in.

It’s done. A111 finished.

What’s next?

I need to buy the set texts for A112. That’s going to be my summer reading.

Share post
Picture of Christopher Douce

A111 Journal - April 2021

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Christopher Douce, Sunday, 2 May 2021, 12:41

2 April 21

I’ve got my TMA 4 results back and I felt that the marking was fair, and the feedback was really detailed and thorough.

I discovered that whilst I tried to answer the essay question, I did go a bit ‘off piste’. In other words, I was trying to be too clever, and moved away from some of the key themes and topics that were presented within the module materials. That’s okay, though. Other than the first TMA, I’ve never really written an arts essay before, so I should be pleased with my score.

I’ve finished reading the chapter about the play called The Island, which I enjoyed. I learnt a lot about the history of South Africa, and the way that a play can transcend different boundaries. I’ve read half of the next chapter: Music and Protest in South Africa. What I need to do now is to go back over the online materials; there is half of the Antigone materials to work through, and all of The Island materials to work through. I feel as if I’m just about keeping up, but by the skin of my teeth.

I’ve reminded myself of the next TMA cut-off date, which is coming up in around three weeks. Next week I have a plan to prepare my TMA document, and then have a very good look at the questions. 

In other news, I’ve also registered for the follow on module, A112.

5 April 21

My registration for A112 has been confirmed. It’s going ahead! Now, all I’ve got to do is to complete TMA 6.

To prepare for this final TMA, I did a bit of reading yesterday. I read over the chapter that was about South Africa, protest and music quite quickly. I do plan to spend a bit more time working through the online material in a lot of depth, since I think this might be my focus on TMA 6. I got a bit further than I had expected, and got to the chapter about the art of Benin. There’s such a lot in this new chapter that I don’t know about. I guess I’m balancing studying in a strategic way with studying with the intention of making sure I learn about new things that I don’t know about, and might help me understand new perspectives.

Aware that I need to get a move on, I’ve started to prep for TMA 5.

I’ve created a new document and have added the reflective question that I need to answer. I have also copy/pasted in the assessment criteria, and a summary of all the question points that I must address.

My next step: to review the very useful feedback that has been given by my tutor, and to review all these blog posts.

16 April 21

Between this post and the last post, I have been doing a bit of reading, but not as much as I should have been. 

Today I re-read a chapter about the looting of Benin, a chapter about the way the Benin bronzes were perceived and presented, and then got to a chapter about the relationship between the bronzes and modern art. I found this last chapter really interesting, although quite difficult to read; some of the text was quite dense.  

During this last chapter, I learnt about the connections between modernist art and modern art, and the way that the notion of ‘primitive’ art had been challenged by the technical precision of the Benin bronzes. Whilst I was studying, I took a couple of pictures (using my mobile phone) of what I thought were key paragraphs about the way in which the bronzes were understood and viewed.

17 April 21

Two days to go before the TMA 5 cut-off date. I’ve started it, putting all the main ingredients together. I now need to go back to my document, edit it all together (drawing on the activities that I have completed), and get a submission together. 

A few days ago I reviewed the module assessment strategy after reading some questions from a fellow student, who asked: “do I have to submit TMA 6?” I know that TMA 5 accounts for 10% of the overall score, and TMA 6 accounts for 20%. Although it looks like I can get away with not submitting the final TMA and still pass the module, I’m going to submit it anyway.

At this stage, I’m torn between doing the literature and music question, and the history and art question for TMA 6. I think I’m going to do some re-reading before I decide.

Meanwhile, on to TMA 5.

27 April 21

I found a bit of time to attend the only tutorial I’ve managed to go to for TMA 6. The tutorial focussed on the Benin bronzes. When I started, there were about 12 students online. By the time it finished, there were about 4 or 5. The tutor did a great job talking us through the different materials, and there were three practical activities which connected to something that we had to do in the TMA.

30 April 21

I’ve got my TMA 5 result, which I’m really pleased about. 

I’ve read through the feedback, but I need to read through it again. A reflection is: I need to review the guidance about writing an assignment, which was given to me with my TMA 4 feedback, since that looks to be really helpful.

I’ve been really busy at work recently, which means that I’ve not done as much as I had hope to do. I need to do a bit of catching up.

Permalink Add your comment
Share post
Picture of Christopher Douce

A111 Journal – March 2021

Visible to anyone in the world

6 March 21

I didn’t make it to the TMA tutorial, but I did work through the online materials for Remembering and Forgetting in Ireland.

Since the clock is now ticking quite loudly, it’s time to get strategic.

I have two things to do during this session: go to a recording of an online tutorial about the Gothic Revival, and go straight onto the online activities.

I found the recorded tutorial interesting. Our tutor spoke about Catholicism, Protestantism, the Palace of Westminster, and the Gothic revival. He also touched on broader aspects of architecture such as modernism (specifically mentioning Le Corbusier) and the design of the Reichstagsgebäude building by Foster.

My next step was to actually look at the TMA question: “’Writing may be as important as designing for an architect.’ Discuss”. I found this immediately puzzling, but maybe the reason what I hadn’t yet been through the online materials, and had only very briefly read the module materials that had been presented in the course text.

To try to fill this gap, it is back to the materials, where I soon learnt more about the difference between a classical arch, and a gothic arch.

12 March 21

A few days earlier, I worked through the printed module materials again, making notes, in pencil, in the margins of the book. This gave me some good ideas, and a bit of focus about what to write about.

I gave the TMA a good go; I re-wrote my essay plan and then set out all the key points I wanted to make. I felt that I was responding to the question, whilst also drawing on the sources that were presented in the module materials. I was able to quote some of the phrases and terms I had identified from my re-reading of the materials. 

I got up to approximately 1200 words, which suggests that there is a little more I might be able to write about. I have some ideas.

13 March 21

I’ve done it! I’ve submitted TMA 4.

I found it difficult to answer the essay question and write about the materials that were presented within the module. I found it easier to go outside, but I hope the external materials that I’ve drawn upon are appropriate and useful, and connect well to the context (and themes) that were presented within the module materials. I tried to “bring myself back” to the examples in the module materials to try to show that I had understood everything.

Next bit: a section called Moving Forward. I can also see there’s a discussion forum that I need to have a good look at. These resources are all about making a choice about the next module, and answering the question: “what bits did I enjoy the most?” I also listened to these short audio clips of students talking about their experiences.

The moving forward section offered a strong steer towards the optional further study activities. I’m going to look at Revival of the Gothic Tradition materials (if I have the time, of course).

Having a quick look through the websites, I think the next module is going to be (providing I finish this one, of course) A112 Cultures.

16 March 21

I went to a module wide event, which was called “moving forward”, whilst I was doing a bit of multi-tasking in my day job. I was surprised to see that there must have been over 450 students attending. 

20 March 21

I have started to start reading the first chapter of the next book, Crossing Boundaries. This chapter was about Antigone (an-tig-on-nee, apparently), a Greek tragedy written by Sophocles.

21 March 21

I’ve finished Antigone. I’m don’t really know whether I liked it or not. I think I did. Spoiler alert: everyone dies.

Permalink Add your comment
Share post
Picture of Christopher Douce

A111 Journal - February 2021

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Christopher Douce, Saturday, 6 Mar 2021, 10:11

21 Feb 21

This is really the first note that I’ve made in February? Unfortunately, it is. This month has been more than busy in my day job. 

I’ve gone from being a couple of weeks ahead to being a couple of weeks behind. 

I need to get my focus back again.

Towards the beginning of the week I received my TMA 3 feedback, which I was really pleased about. My tutor had read my short story really carefully, and provided some really helpful comments about how my writing may be improved. One thing I have learnt is this: don’t try to be too clever, since sometimes it just doesn’t work. In my story I sacrificed readability to deliberately create some descriptions that were ambiguous. When one has a really limited word count to play with, it’s important not to mess about.

Over the last two days I’ve been reading chapter 5, questioning tradition, which is about philosophy, and chapter 6, remembering and forgetting in Ireland, which is about history.

I’ve learnt that Socrates didn’t actually write anything, and it was instead his pupil Plato who wrote the dialogues in which he is featured. In the dialogues I’ve read, Socrates does have a habit of coming across as being really annoying, what with all his questioning!

I’ve noted down this section from the module materials: “one benefit of reading Plato is that his writings are designed to courage a kind of critical reflection, inviting us to think through the arguments for ourselves and come to our own view”. 

Some really interesting bits have been the dialogue about the nature of courage, and the difference between knowledge and opinion (and how this relates to philosophy).

In chapter 6 I’ve learnt about the notion of cultural nationalism, and have read an excerpt of speech about rediscovering the Irish language.

It’s now time to head over to the module website and start to make some notes. If I have time, I’ll also have a good look at TMA 4, which I have printed out.

28 Feb 21

I’m gradually catching up. I did a bit of reading today and yesterday.

I finished reading chapter 6, remembering and forgetting in Ireland, and chapter 7, Christianity and its material culture, and started chapter 8, the revival of the gothic tradition.

I found the chapter about Christianity, which highlighted topics of pilgrimage, cathedrals and the reformation interesting. This said, religious studies is not really a subject that I feel I can personally get really excited about.

Out of all the chapters that I have been reading in this section of the module, I have realised that I have enjoyed the architecture chapter the most. It’s a subject that I quite like even though I haven’t really thought about it in a great amount of detail before.

I have two things on my ‘todo’ list today: a quick sprint through the various online activities for these modules (if I have the time), and a look at the next TMA.

In October, I wrote 7 updates to my A111 journal. In November, I wrote 16 entries. For this month, I’ve only written 2. A final reflection: I need to up my pace of study if I’m going to keep on track.

Permalink Add your comment
Share post
Picture of Christopher Douce

A111 Journal – January 2021

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Christopher Douce, Monday, 1 Feb 2021, 09:26

1 Jan 21

I have a few things I want to finish off before having a good look at the TMA questions again. The first thing is the online section about the set text: The Faber Book of Beasts.

We were set an activity: to create a mini anthology of five poems. I went over the table of contents of the book a number of times, and looked at a few, before settling on an animal related theme. 

The next bit was a discussion about the concept of conceit, and what it means in the context of poetry. I had never heard this term before (other than within the word conceited). One poem was used to demonstrate the idea that a conceit is a “turn of thought” or an “artistic device or concept” (p.182) 

The final bit was a return to the online materials, where we were introduced to the Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and Oxford Art Online. I had once used a physical version of the OED, but I hadn’t heard of the other two. 

That’s enough for today.

2 Jan 21

I’ve been misunderstanding things! I thought we had to answer two questions for this TMA; instead, we’ve just got to answer one of them!

In some ways, I’m relieved, but I’m also slightly disappointed that the course isn’t forcing me (in a good way) to really look at another topic in detail.  This said, there’s nothing stopping me from carrying out some independent study.

I’ve made good progress today; I’ve made a rough plan, I’ve started a story, and I’ve made some notes about what I’ve been thinking as I progress. 

9 Jan 21

It seems like I’ve had an accidental short break from everything, which coincides with my first week back at work, following the new year break.

Today is the day of a tutorial. Unfortunately, I arrived half an hour late to a session on Roman and Greek sculpture. I made a note of the phrase that it isn’t about just copying the forms of the sculpture, but recreating and engaging in a symbolic dialogue with the artefacts. There was also a discussion about how the sculptures may have been used, and what they symbolised.

Next up was a section about poetry. 

We were asked the question: what is poetry? And also: how do we recognise a poem when we wee one? We were put into breakout rooms, and asked to discuss some short poems from the set texts. A quite enjoyed this activity, and was quite surprised at the range of different interpretations everyone came up with.

I took away an important point from this tutorial: do remember to include an essay plan for TMA 3.

13 Jan 21

Another day, another tutorial. This time it was a session about creative writing and The Blues. Unfortunately, due to internet connectivity issues, the session had to be cut short. Our tutor dropped out a few times, and there was sometimes a bit of audio lag.

Key points I took away was that there are different ways to define a short story, and there are different definitions for the terms story and plot; a story relates to what happens, an event or circumstance whereas a plot is all about why something happens.

Points to bear in mind when writing a short story includes what happens (story), who things happen to (character), where things happen (place), how and why things happen (plot), and why everything matters.

23 Jan 21

For TMA 3 we have to choose a tradition and make a short post to a discussion forum. Before making my choice, I did a bit of reading, on a popular online encyclopaedia. I became quite engrossed in the subject, and started to look at the references at the bottom of each of the articles. I ended up choosing a subject that I hadn’t really thought of as a tradition before. I remembered that the tradition that I focussed on was also very briefly addressed in the previous tutorial. I’m now looking forward to seeing what other students submit.

It’s back onto my short story. I had completely forgotten where I got to. Before I begin my writing, I prepare a cup of tea to keep me going. I find that tea always helps. There’s something in it that helps you (one) to concentrate.

30 Jan 21

I’ve finished my story. I’m pretty pleased with it. A friend has kindly read it. He has given me a few comments which I’m very grateful for. The process of reflecting on those comments will feed into the reflective bit of the TMA.

I’ve spent a couple of hours revisiting the chapter on creative writing, and rereading the TMA questions just to make sure I’ve got a thorough handle on what is required. 

Although I have done some planning for my writing, it was all very informal – and I think I’m going to have to say this in the TMA. I’m also going to have to have a think about the effect of what my formal planning had on my final version of my story.

Looking back on what I’ve written, I think I’ve managed to address the key ingredients that the TMA was asking for. I’ve also managed to include a couple of surprises too.

On Monday I’m going to send a couple of replies to posts other students have made about the theme of 'tradition', choose the reply I like best, and start to pull together my TMA 3 submission.

Share post
Picture of Christopher Douce

A111 Journal – December 2020

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Christopher Douce, Saturday, 2 Jan 2021, 09:53

1 Dec 20

I divide an empty TMA document into three sections, ready for writing. With my notes now navigable, I transfer some of the key terms from the module materials into my TMA document to remember what they are. 

I begin with the Mozart section. I listen to the fragment and note down some transitions and times.

It’s time to return to my day job.

4 Dec 20

I must have listened to the sound fragment around 15 times. I quite enjoyed describing the piece of music. I realised I need to simplify my writing to reflect its structure. There was a moment where I felt I understood what the module team were trying to ask us to discover.

Next up: Dickens. I minimise Outlook, minimise my web browser and reach for the text I’ve got to analyse for the TMA question.

It’s not long before I analyse the narrative voice, and then I quickly run out of steam. I need to return to the module materials to get a few more ideas about what analysing literature means.

6 Dec 20

I print out my draft TMA 2 and do some copy editing with a pen and paper. Next step: make those changes in the Word version. As I go, I tick off all those copy edits with a different coloured pen as I go. Final step: submit TMA 2, with just under a week to go before the deadline.

12 Dec 20

Today is the day when the iCMA opens. I work through the materials on academic conduct (which I feel pretty confident about), and then dive in to have a go at it. Although I had more planned for today, I was happy with what I had achieved: completing another bit of the module. 

15 Dec 20

I had one main objective for today: to get through a section about Greek and Roman sculpture. 

Looking at the TMA 3, I’m thinking of answering the question about Blues or Creative Writing. This said, I thought it would be important to read through all the other chapters in the second book to learn some new things, and to be open to the possibility that I might become interested in the other disciplines.

I made notes about the concept of ‘traditions’, which is described in the introduction; that it is about ‘handing things over’, and relates to “customs, artistic styles, ideas, practices or beliefs”. There was also the point that traditions can “enrich our experience of the contemporary world” (p.4). 

Onto the module materials; I was introduced to a bunch of terms: Greek, Roman, Greco-Roman, Ancient and Classical. Other terms include “votive offerings” and a section entitled “kouroi and korai”. There were differences in forms, and differences in poses.

I quite enjoyed watching the videos that describe how three contemporary artists have been included by ancient sculpture.

The final bit of today: a study skills section about referencing.

Next bit; the bit that I’m really looking forward to: the blues.

19 Dec 20

I’ve spent a few hours over the last week going through the online version of the module materials that relate to the blues. 

I can immediately recognise a traditional blues song when it is played, but I was never really consciously aware of its structure. In this section we learnt about the origins of the blues, the themes that are generally explored, listened to a number of tracks. We were introduced to the concept of scales, chords, and how they relate to the 12-bar blues structure. Although I had a sketchy idea of some of these concepts, it was good to read a formal definition.

During this week there were tracks by The Beatles, Gershwin, Queen, Robert Petway, Mamie Smith, W. C. Handy, Johnny Cash, and references to B.B. King, Bessie Smith and Blind Lemon Jefferson. It was a really nice mixture.

Towards the end of this section, there was another bit about study skills, and how I went about planning the writing of assessments. It turns out that we have to submit a plan as a part of the next assessment.

There are two things that I want to look up. The first is: what modules are there on the music pathway; I’m curious. Secondly: what, exactly, have we got to do for the next TMA? 

I’m looking forward to the next chapter, which is all about creative writing.

28 Dec 20

I read the section on creative writing (without making notes), a few days after the above entry. I also went through the online materials. I particularly liked the audio recording of the short story. Some points from the creative writing section I need to take away: character, imagery and setting, point of view, time, and showing and telling (with an emphasis on showing, so the reader figures things out) (p.136-137). 

I feel a bit guilty about not explicitly completing the activities in the module materials (I know they’re important since they help us to prepare for the assessment), but I’m thinking I’ll go back to them if I choose the creative writing question for the TMA.

The next section is all about reading poetry.

We’re introduced to poems by Hardy, Blake, Donne, and Bishop, before I went to the online materials. Key terms I picked up on were: metaphor (obviously), simile (which was called a type of metaphor), anthropomorphism (which was also under the heading of metaphor), form, conceit, free verse, iambic tetrameter, trimeter and pentameter. 

I quite like the poetry section. I see them as descriptive puzzles that express something, which are there to be decoded and analysed. The more one studies them, the more they can speak to us.

Permalink 1 comment (latest comment by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 7 Jan 2021, 05:18)
Share post
Picture of Christopher Douce

A111 - November 2020

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Christopher Douce, Friday, 1 Jan 2021, 16:02

1 Nov 20

I got stuck into the writing of the TMA, beginning with Cleopatra. I got quite far. I made a start on the second part, which is about Queen Elizabeth. I think it’s harder since the question may be ‘getting at’ something that I might be missing.

3 Nov 20

I have another go at writing the TMA in the morning, but I don’t get very far. I’ve identified another point that I can mention in my answer about Cleopatra, but the Elizabeth section remains a bit of a mystery.

7 Nov 20

Three days before the TMA 1 submission deadline. Today I’m going to finish it and the move to the next section. I’ve got the whole of the morning to look through the Elizabeth materials again and edit together my answer. I’m hoping that a bit of time away from the question might have helped. 

I’ve submitted TMA 1! 

After a couple of days away, I had noticed some things that I hadn’t noticed before. A question that I have been asking myself was: “why is the module team telling me this?” I’m not sure whether the form of my TMA answers is what the module team are looking for. This said, I’ll get a steer from my tutor soon enough.

At the start of the next unit, I was asked about what I thought about Mozart. I listened to 4 different tracks before being introduced to the terms: pitch, range, timbre and dynamics (I knew what pitch and timbre was from other studies). I then read something about his sister, Nannerl, before learning the definitions of new terms for genres: symphony, concerto, aria and sonata. Although I vaguely understood what these were, I couldn’t define them with confidence.

I feel I’ve achieved quite a bit today. Time to turn off the laptop.

8 Nov 20

I read about the sonata, and aspects of its structure (that it usually has 3 or 4 movements).

I also read that Mozart toured around different countries and adopted musical styles of the places that he visited and the composers that he met. I also learnt about Joseph Boulogne Chevalier de Saint Georges, who I had never heard of before. I took a few moments to listen to some tracks of his work on Spotify; this is something that I’m definitely going to go back to do.

Next up was the introduction of new(ish) terms: tutti (all), and solo (alone), and an introduction of the piano, and an activity that encouraged us to consider the difference in the tibre between the harpsichord and this new-fangled piano instrument.

My study day concluded with a couple of listening activities: figuring out the genre of a piece of music and the listening to Mozart’s 9th concerto for keyboard.

9 Nov 20

Mozart in Vienna.

In this section of the module, we had a few more listening activities. There was an activity to identify different musical genres, and an activity to listen to the interplay between soloists and the orchestra. There was also a quick look at Haydn, who I didn’t really know anything about (other than knowing his name).

The section ended with a video that explored different perceptions of Mozart’s genius, and how this is portrayed in the 1984 film Amadeus, which I have seen a couple of times (a film I recorded from television using a video recorder over 30 years ago). 

A key point appeared to be the way that he applied his talents as a musician.

11 Nov 20

Time for a tutorial. I attended part 2 of the online day school (since the face to face day school had been cancelled), which focussed on two topics: Dickens and Van Gogh. I was initially a bit confused about the tutorial schedule, since part 2 was presented before part 1, and I’ve not got through these chapters yet.

Key points that I picked up from the Dickens bit was the way you could begin to describe a text: you could refer to the genre, description, the role of the narrator, the themes, who the reader is, sentence length, and a whole host of other aspects. It’s been at least 30 years since I studied literature.

Next up was a section about Van Gogh. Some key terms (or things to think about) included: composition, brush work, tone, genre, colour, medium, modelling. An aspect of the tutorial was considering how a particular image may relate to the artists reputation.

Although I haven’t got to these sections in the module material yet, I’m finding that I’m being drawn to section about art rather than literature, which has surprised me. Things might change as I do more study.

12 Nov 20

It’s the first thing in the morning.

There’s a few more things I need to look at to complete the Mozart chapter: a read through of the summary, and two study skills section. The first study skills section is about close listening to music.

Key topics includes rhythm and metro, timbre, melody, harmony and texture. I’m introduced to a whole range of descriptive terms which could be used with each other, such as, such as contour, range, steps and jumps, pitch and transparency.

I’m not going to finish it all today, so I’m going to save the reflective task, review, and further study sections for another day.

15 Nov 20

It looks like I’ve missed the goals that I should have set during week 1. I notice there’s another activity that I need to complete, so I answered the questions about which learning outcome I feel is the most surprising, which skills or abilities I already have, and which skills I think I’ll most improve. The skill I thought would be most useful to develop is the skill of engaging critically with familiar and unfamiliar points of view; I’m not (yet) sure what “engaging critically” means in the arts and humanities. 

There’s another activity I need to complete: looking ahead to book 1, which individual are you most looking forward to studying? My answer is: Mary Wollsonecraft, for the simple reason is that I know more about the other figures than I do of her.

The last part of the Mozart: the optional further study bit. I did completed these tasks quite quickly, but I might return to them. There was a surprise at the end: we could access something called the Naxos Music Library to listen to entire piano concertos, sonatas and symphonies. I’m not sure whether this is a gift or a distraction!

After quite a bit of distraction, I finally made it onto the Mark Wollstonecraft unit, which is really topical due to the unveiling of a statue.

It wasn’t long before I got to the main section, which described her writing of “the vindication” and then got to the section about her reputation. I’ve learnt quite a few things: a bit of history, something about her link to Shelly, and the way that reputations can change over time. The next bit is going to be the online material and the additional reading before moving onto the next unit.

18 Nov 20

It’s tutorial time. I arrived late, but just in time to note down two abbreviations which relate to literature analysis: GAP, and LIST. I’m going to have to return to the recording to catch up on the bit that I missed. For the section on Van Gogh, we looked at two contrasting portraits; a self-portrait, and another portrait by Gainsborough. I liked how the tutor discussed the differences and used some of the terms from the module materials.

20 Nov 20

A day off! Back to the final sections of Wollstonecraft. I completed the final activities, read a skills section on reading, made some notes, and listened to the In our Time recording, which connected really nicely with her biography which was summarised in the module materials. There was a lot in that recording, and talk about other figures and ideas that I had not encountered before.

In other news, I’ve got my TMA 1 back! I did better than I expected.

22 Nov 20

I finally start the next unit, which is about Dickens. 

I was soon directed to a reading activity by the set text: the reading of A Christmas Carol. I’ve heard the story many times (in various different forms). It was interesting to read the . I felt that the final section (stave, as it was called) was quite short in comparison to the others.

23 Nov 20

Before a day of work, I read sections 4 and 5 in the unit text, where I noticed the following terms were written in bold: narrative voice, first person, realism, modes, and personification. One thing that I found really interesting was a reference to literature and realism, where it describes “the physical details of everyday life through precise, factual language”.

25 Nov 20

I seem to have found a habit now; studying in the morning before work.

I finished reading the Dickens unit, and have started the Van Gogh chapter. I really liked the activity where we were asked to edit a portion of text, as if we were going to read it to an audience. We were then encouraged to compare our edits, to some edits that had been made by Dickens himself. I’m not comparing myself to Dickens or anything, but I was surprised that we had edited out very similar sections. 

The unit emphasised the importance of writing and rewriting, and concluded with a question about the themes that Dickens had been drawing upon. We were also directed to optional further study work in OpenLearn: Charles Dickens: Celebrity Author.

Onto Van Gogh; who I know very little about. 

We were shown a painting, and asked to consider colour, subject matter, brushwork, lifelike qualities (or not), design, pattern and shape, and any personal associations that we may bring to the viewing of an image. Next up is the unit chapter. 

I think that’s it for today; I need to return to my day job.

26 Nov 20

I enjoyed finishing reading the Van Gogh unit.

I learnt about his link with other artists, particularly Gauguin, and how he admired a painter called Millet. I liked the activity where we had to compare and contrast the use of how Van Gogh and Monet used colour in two paintings which had a different theme. There as also an activity where we had to read a transcription and translation of a letter that he wrote to his brother, Theo. Although I had heard somewhere that he had cut off his ear, I didn’t know about the extent of his mental illness. The module materials suggested that he painted despite mental illness, not because of it (but that is, of course, a huge simplification).

Next up: the materials on the module website, and then the writing of TMA 2. I feel as if I’m keeping to the module calendar pretty closely.

29 Nov 20

I finish reading through the Van Gogh module materials and complete the activities. I quite enjoyed the online activity where we had to use some of the terms from the module to describe and analyse a selection of paintings.

I’m now faced with a choice; I need to write about two of the four disciplines that I’ve briefly studied. My choice is: music, philosophy, literature or art.

I look through the TMA.

I rule out the Mary Wollstonecraft question, not because of the subject or her philosophy, but the wording of some of the questions put me off.

I’ve decided to do the Dickens question simply because it’s been such a long time since I’ve studied literature, and that tackling the literature option might do me good.

The final choice: Mozart or Van Gogh; music or art.

Although I found the materials really interesting, there’s something about Van Gogh that annoys me that I can’t quite put my finger on. Whilst I think I can answer the question using the terms and language in the module, I quite like the idea of analysing and writing about music.

My choice: Mozart and Dickens.

Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Christopher Douce, Friday, 1 Jan 2021, 16:06)
Share post
Picture of Christopher Douce

A111 Journal – October 2020

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Christopher Douce, Friday, 1 Jan 2021, 15:54

3 Oct 20

Today I found the time to listen to the In Our Time recording about Cleopatra. As it was playing, I made some rough notes (the first of which I’ve made for the module). There was a lot in this 40 minute segment. I learnt about Plutarch’s writings, and then later discovered two additional readings that were on the website. The final thing I read was a poem by Horace. There were a whole bunch of words or names that I didn’t understand, but that’s okay (there is time to learn what these are all about, right?)  I think I got the gist (and I could see that the poem got a whole lot darker as it progressed).

I jumped forward to the online section: block 2, unit 2 which is about Mary, picking up from where I left off. I am, however, mindful that I need to go back over the Cleopatra materials again, and make some notes. I made a mental note: I do need to get myself into a consistent rhythm of study (and should avoid jumping about, since I need to let what I’ve learnt ‘sit with me’ for a while).

I watched the video about a shrine to Mary in Alacala des los Gazules, Andalusia, Spain, and made a bunch of notes, which I then used to answer the activity questions. I then listened to the audio interview, also making some notes before completing the activity. Having a non-religious upbringing, I did struggle to make sense of the questions that were asked in this unit. An early reflection: I much prefer the classics than religious studies.

I get to section 7: optional further study. It’s time to take a break. I click on the bookmark button. I might come back to it in the afternoon.

I do spend a bit of time looking through the extension material later on in the day, and clicked through to a section of the Qur’an. This was all new to me, and the section that I’m taken to is pretty hard going. I certainly need to go back to if I’m going to answer the questions that are presented in the activity. I quickly browse through the remaining pages in this final section, which takes me to a page entitled: “explore Mary in art: a case study”. This takes me to a video that “explores a well-known work by the sixteenth-century artist Giovanni Bellini”. The idea of a ‘devotional image’ is now a bit clearer to me (I didn’t used to spend a lot of times looking at these images whenever I saw them in a museum or gallery), and I was intrigued by the references to painting genres, and particularly the attention that was given to the landscape.

9 Oct 20

I returned to the chapter on Elizabeth that I started reading over the weekend. 

I read the section which was about her depiction in different paintings. I quite liked the activities, which asked the questions about the paintings. These encouraged me to look a bit more closely. I wasn’t aware of how various items (such as pearls) has an accompanying meaning.

11 Oct 20

Back to Elisabeth again, this time to read about her historical reputation. The section contains the words: “Elizabeth retains a reputation of having presided over a ‘golden age’. It’s possible that you thought of her this way when you began to study the unit”. Actually, that was exactly what I had heard, and was my general understanding, but I didn’t know what was meant by “golden age”.

The section introduced the voyage of the Spanish Armada. Again, I must recognise my ignorance: there was an area that was known as the Spanish Netherlands? How did that happen? I knew about the impact on the weather, and that vessels had been shipwrecked on the west coast of Ireland. I quite liked the activities which explored the reasons for the failure of the Armada, and how different historians discuss and view the question of her succession. 

The web materials mention learning outcomes about primary and secondary sources, and introduced the notion of “the cult of Elizabeth”. There are three recordings, which are all about how different historians can explore subjects from different angles. The activities showed how one historian can draw upon and build on ideas of another, and also how existing ideas can be subject to review and reinterpretation.

Final bit: a section about the forthcoming assessment. There was a really useful page that expands on some of words used in assessments: questions words (how, why, what, can, how far, to what extent), compare and contrast, describe, explore, consider, assess, and explain. I wish I had seen something like this earlier in my studying career! 

A final comment. A day before studying this section, I went for a walk in the Kent countryside, where I found myself walking close to Chartwell; Winston Churchill’s former home. I realised that Churchill’s reputation is also subject to continual study, evaluation and re-evaluation.

13 Oct 20

Went to my first online tutorial. I was expecting something slightly different: a broader description of the module and what to expect. Whilst there was some scene setting, the focus was on looking at different sources, which was all about helping us to prepare for the first TMA which is due in November. 

I’ve chosen which figures I’m going to write about (we need to choose two out of three), and this means that I know which sections of the module materials I’m going to revisit. During the tutorial I made some notes, since I know that tutorials can offer some really useful tips about what needs to be covered.

24 Oct 20

Back to it again after a short break; I’ve been very busy at work recently. Unfortunately, I have missed a tutorial but I hope to listen to the recording if one is made is available. It took me quite a while to get back into a right frame of mind for studying, but eventually I got there. I finished re-reading the chapter about Cleopatra, and then started to re-read the section on Elizabeth.

25 Oct 20

I finished re-reading the chapter on Elizabeth and briefly looked over all the activities (but I know that I should be spending quite a bit more time on them). My next action was to create an empty document for my TMA. I created a directory on my file store for my TMA document and the feedback that I receive when it is returned to me. 

I do a bit of digging, and I can’t find any tutorial recordings. 

Next task: copy paste the essence of the questions from the TMA brief into my document; these are what I need to answer. Looking at the TMA question, it’s clear that there’s something that I need to read closely, so I get a printout of TMA 1 using the ‘view as single page’ option on the website.

After getting the printout, I get my highlighter pen going and highlight bits of the Elizabeth section of the TMA question, and then move onto the online module materials.

I make notes of the four different audio clips. Two key points I’ve taken away is: historians (obviously) build on the work of others, and they (of course) may see things in different ways.

I end the day by revisiting the study skills section which has a short bit about preparing for TMAs. It highlights three stages: (1) start gathering your material, (2) start jotting down ideas, and (3) plan your assignment. For the first step, I had an idea, but I’ll leave that until tomorrow. 

30 Oct 20

One tutorial recording had been made available. I tried to access it, but wasn’t successful. I posted to the forum to get a bit of help.

I’ve always known that the module activities help to prepare for the writing of the assessments. I also know that I’ve got a habit of rushing through them and not really spending enough time to take them in. To make me go a bit slower, I wrote a summary of each activity into my TMA document file. 

The next bit is going to be the jotting down of ideas about how to link them to the question (and the things that I’ve read).

Permalink Add your comment
Share post
Picture of Christopher Douce

A111 Journal - September 2020

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Christopher Douce, Friday, 1 Jan 2021, 15:54

Over the last couple of weeks I've started to study A111 Discovering the arts and humanities, which is a foundation module for degrees in the arts and humanities. Other than having a couple of English GCSEs, I've never formally studied the arts and humanities. 

One of the recommendations is to begin what is called a learning journal. There are many different ways to keep one: long form notes that you keep in an A4 file, or a Word document. I've decided to go one step further and share parts of my learning journal on a blog, and make my posts visible by the A111 tag. I plan to post one of these a month.

I got my books in early September, and having a busy day job, I got stuck in before the official module start date. Here's what I've been up to.

12 Sep 20

I started reading about Cleopatra and quickly realised that I don’t know anything. I didn’t know about Caesar was assassinated, and that there were connections to Greece, Rome and Egypt. I was introduced to the point about different perspectives. I read the FAQ on the module website. A thought is: get a regular study pattern in the morning, and try to get ahead!

26 Sep 20

Getting ahead of myself, I started reading the chapter about the Mary (the mother of Jesus). I didn’t know that the story of the nativity comes from different gospels (Luke and another one) and that there were these other texts that were not included into the bible. I learnt about the origins of the word ‘polemic’ and also didn’t know that there were so many references to Mary in the Quran. All this stuff is new to me.

30 Sep 20

Finished reading section 4 of Mary, which was about how Mary is worshipped and can appear in apparitions. After reading the section, I realised that the different chapters of this first book relate to different disciplines. It’s really obvious now that I’ve noticed it. 

After finishing section 4, I went back to the website, and noticed that there were further module materials to go through that I hadn’t seen before.

I enjoyed the videos ‘Cleopatra in Hollywood’ and ‘Cleopatra on TV’. I had a quick look through the skills section about using sources (I must return back to this), and spent a bit of time working through the section on notes. 

A note to self: I need to figure out a way to start to make notes whilst I read stuff. I need to listen to the In Our Time clip from BBC Radio 4 that is linked to from the module materials. I learn better by listening than by reading.

Next blog takes me to the start of October.

Permalink Add your comment
Share post

This blog might contain posts that are only visible to logged-in users, or where only logged-in users can comment. If you have an account on the system, please log in for full access.

Total visits to this blog: 1160799