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A111 Journal – October 2020

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Monday, 2 Nov 2020, 17:16

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).

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Picture of Christopher Douce

A111 Journal - September 2020

Visible to anyone in the world

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.

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