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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 – November 2023

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Monday, 11 Dec 2023, 08:02

1 November 2023

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

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

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

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

Back to the day job… 

11 November 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16 November 2023

It’s TMA submission day!

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

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

22 November 2023

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

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

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

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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

A233 Journal - September 2023

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

9 September 2023

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

10 September 2023

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

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

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

22 September 2023

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

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

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

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

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

23 September 2023

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

27 September 2023

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

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

30 September 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The final bits: a very brief study of the week 1 reading guidance (noting what I need to return to), and a quick look at the careers page and the learning journal document; it looks so long! Last of all, after checking off all the bits of the block I had read, was to eyeball the OU subjects and qualifications website https://learn2.open.ac.uk/blocks/subjectlist/ which I have never seen before.

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

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Christopher Douce

Preparing for the summer: A233 reading list

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

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

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

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

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

Smith, A. Hotel World, Penguin, ISBN 9780140296792

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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