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Christopher Douce

A233 Journal - May 2024

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6 May 2024

I’ve been in a bit of a marking hole for a while.

The last thing I did before taking a bit of work-imposed break from study was watch a production of The Tempest that was staged at The Globe. I turns out that I have lost my copy of the text; it is either hidden amongst a pile of books, or it is at my parents place; I don’t know which. To get around this, I’ve been following a version of the text with a Project Guttenberg version that I have downloaded onto my Kindle.

I recently found out that the version of the text I had wasn’t the one that was recommended by the module team, which has now been delivered. It is the introduction to the set text that I have ordered, and it is that text that I’ve been reading today.

I’ve also emailed a bunch of additional reading to my Kindle, which I hope to go through over the next couple of days. I feel I’m building up towards the writing of the EMA. Another step towards it will be a Shakespeare lecture that takes place tomorrow. In between my day job and study, I’ll also be marking some project assignments. I have a lot to be getting on with.

10 May 2024

I’m finally doing a bit of proper study. Two days ago I went to an online tutorial that was about TMA 5 preparation, which I found quite helpful. Yesterday I listened to the remainder of a module team tutorial that was about how to go about reading Shakespeare. This morning, and also for a part of yesterday, I’ve been skim reading a bunch of additional readings I’ve found from both the module website and the OU library. I feel I’m getting there.

The Tempest is growing on me. Whilst I’ve always liked science fiction, I’ve never really liked fantasy. I found the idea of a magician creating a storm and causing mischief thoroughly boring. I can, however, see that there’s a whole lot more going on than I ever realised.

Our tutor has directed us to a site Shakespeareswords.com which looks to be pretty useful.

Next steps: finish up all my reading, and then go onto making my word processed notes from my Kindle notes and highlights, and then writing, which will hopefully take a couple of days.

15 May 2024

A couple of days ago I went to a tutorial that was run by my tutor. I think there were five of us; a lot was covered, and it was recorded. I picked up a whole load of tips on how to approach my essay.

I spent a lot of time yesterday sat in a car. I made use of over 4 or 5 hours of driving by listening to an audio book of The Dispossessed. The more I listen to it, the more there is to unpick.

To help with the unpicking, a fellow student shared the following YouTube videos, which are certainly worth a listen:

I was struck by a couple of things. I was struck by how many detailed videos the presenter of the second video had mad. I was struck by how much time and energy had been expended preparing all of these. I liked the third video; it talks about materialism vs idealism. It has helped me to reflect on the views that I previously held about science fiction. The points about roles, origins and purpose of stories are interesting too. 

19 May 2024

A busy couple of days. I managed to finish transferring all my digital e-book notes into my Word document. I had to do quite a bit of driving yesterday, so I spent 4 more hours of it listening to The Dispossessed. I think I have a few more hours of listening to go, but I know what happens, and (broadly) how the final chapters are structured.

Today has been a day of two halves. In the morning I did the bulk of my writing, building on and drawing on my notes. It turned out I was 500 words over the word count. I then went through a cycle of editing. Although I think there is still some time to go, I got to a point when I was happy with what I had written, and what I had learnt. This time I applied quite a rigorous writing process. I felt that looking for additional resources, and skim reading them was pretty helpful. I also carefully referenced every article that I downloaded. If I found I didn’t use it, I cut it from the reference list.

There is a niggling feeling that I have that I haven’t really answered the TMA question, but I really don’t think that is the case. I could have picked on more bits of realism, and more specific bits of fantasy, but underneath it all there is the need to express your understanding of the text and to express understanding of different literary terms. I’ll try not to worry. I think I’ve done this.

28 May 2024

Only two more days to go until the final TMA deadline on A233.

I’ve started to get ahead on the reading (and studying) of my next module, A334. This means working through some of the free versions of the texts that I’ve downloaded from Project Guttenberg. To conclude this A233 blog, I wanted to share two points of learning from my studies of English, and points of learning from studying this module.

The first is that I’m starting to read texts in a slightly different way. Although this sounds a bit weird, but I feel as if I’m more aware of what is written. I’m also questioning: why words were written. I found myself realising this when I was reading a popular science (or engineering) book about cloud computing; a text which relates to my day job. (Admittedly, it was a very good book).

The other bit relates to The Tempest. When I watched a production of The Tempest for the first time, I wasn’t very taken by it. I thought it was really silly; all that stuff about magic, fairies and monsters. I didn’t speak to me.

The more I read about it, not just of the module materials, but articles I found from the OU library, the more I began to appreciate it. I reflected on the characters, and the context in which it was written. Turning to an entirely different subject, I also reflected on some research presentations I had attended that were about decolonising computing, and what that meant. 

Could The Tempest be used as a lens to understand this completely different subject? Maybe software engineers could be a bit like Prospero, using all their technical books to enact digital magic. What about the other characters in the play? I will continue to mull over these idle questions.

I’m now looking forward to As you like it, Julius Caesar, and Hamlet.

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Christopher Douce

A233 Journal - April 2024

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7 April 2024

I am procrastinating in a really productive way: I’m reading ahead! I’ve been reading Startdust. It is interesting note that there are a number of different versions. I accidentally downloaded the text only version. What you do need is the illustrated version. The illustrations add a huge amount to the text, since on its own, I found the text quite hard to follow.

I’ve made it part way through the chapter that I shouldn’t be reading.

It’s time to begin to collate all my notes, to prepare for the writing of the TMA. I’ve got notes in two different places: pencil scribbles in the set text, and digital highlights on the PDF version that I’ve been reading using my Kindle. I’ll see how I get on.

12 April 2024

I’ve downloaded an audio book of The Dispossessed. Today I’m helping a friend get settled in his new house. Since it’s quite a drive away, listen to The Dispossessed whilst I’m driving. I found the first couple of chapters unfathomable, and I have no idea what is going on.

13 April 2024

I’m stuck at home with a dodgy ankle that was caused by too much running about, and the messing about with furniture didn’t’ help it one bit. Subsequently, this gives me a bit of time to complete TMA 4! I edit together a set of notes from my reading, I then have a go to edit up my story, and then cycle round a loop of editing a few times. I’m quite pleased with what I’ve written, but less happy with the reflective section, where I’m really struggling with word count. 

I really like Propp’s actants, but I feel pretty dumb, since the extent of my reflection seems to be: ‘I like them, and they have helped me’. I think I know where I’m going to let myself down in the TMA, but it has nearly got to that point where I’ve just got to submit it.

14 April 2024

It’s ‘listening to The Dispossessed’ day. I’m making reasonable progress, but it’s slow and long going. I’ve really got to concentrate to understand what on earth is going on. Since it’s all a bit weird, I don’t know what detail is going to be important, and what detail adds to the overall atmosphere. I don’t think I like it. I glimpsed at the module materials, and there is a comment that the text places demands on the reader. I’m struggling and I’m not even reading it.

It really isn’t good that I’ve fallen asleep twice. On the second occasion I slept through half a chapter. This has never happened.

15 April 2024

One hour of listening before I start work. The Dispossessed has become very weird. Let’s say: I appreciate it, but I don’t like it. I appreciate it’s difficult to predict the future, but spacemen reading books and sending letters? As for all the faux physics, that bit is really starting to grate.

16 April 2024

Another chapter first thing in the morning. The further I get into it, the more I’m drawn to it. I’m surprised at how much action there is!

It’s time to get back to studying a bit more systematically again. I’m back to the online module materials. There are bits that I’ve missed in the previous section, but I need to keep moving forward. It’s onto the video and audio material that relate to Stardust. There are interviews and videos to work through. I’ll skive off a bit of my day job, with the justification that everything I’m doing here is connected (in one way or another).

I’m on a roll: I’ve reviewed all the audio and video clips in the Le Guin weeks, making some notes. My next activity has been to prep a TMA 5 document. Noticing there’s a fair amount of supplementary material, I start to download articles from the library.

Before I’ve finished today, I’m going to have a quick look in the Shakespeare section to see if there’s any audio or video materials I can have a look or listen to.

17 April 2024

Struggling with ankle aches and pains, I join the queue to the GP, whilst listening to chapter 11 of The Dispossessed

When I get back from the queue, I make the following post to the A233 ‘laid back’ Facebook group: “I think I've done a 180 turn when it comes to The Dispossessed. I've gone from: 'this is really tedious, and is continually making me fall asleep' to 'this is really amazing stuff!'. Two chapters on the audio book to go. Keep with it; there are Urasti propetarian dividends to be had, even though it initially might sound like a lot of nonsense (if it is your kind of thing).”

I’m now browsing through the Journal of Science Fiction Studies, when I really ought to be browsing through the IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering. 

It’s all related, right?

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Christopher Douce

A233 Journal - March 2024

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7 March 2024

This is a cheeky retrospective post, but I’m adding it to mark a date. In my spare time (of which, I don’t have too much!) I run a comedy night. Inspired by the TMA question, I have a go at writing a satirical and political fairy tale, called (unimaginatively) A Fairy Tale of Lewisham. After a bit of editing, and a poorly timed practice session, I read it out. It got a couple of laughs, and a round of applause. I’m glad I have done it, but I have no idea whether I can use the basis of what I’ve done in my TMA. To answer this question, I ask my tutor. 

15 March 2024

I’ve been a bit rubbish updating this study log recently, since I’ve been in what you might call a ‘valley of marking’; I’ve had to turn around the marking for two different important modules reasonably quickly. I also know that my new A233 tutor has been in a similar situation; she has since has returned my TMA 2 and TMA 3, and has provided some really helpful feedback which really got me thinking.

After what has become a mild study hiatus, I have returned to my books again. Today I’ve been working through understanding what is needed from the week 20 and week 21 online materials. I’ve nearly finished working through all the video and audio materials, which has helped me to understand what reading I’ve got to do.

I have, however, read the first couple of chapters of the module materials, but I need to go over them again, and then find my way to chapter 3 if I have any chance of keeping on track.

I think I know what TMA 4 option I’m going to do. As it happened, I had a go of writing something before I had thoroughly had a look at the TMA question.

I have four things to do. The first is to listen (and make notes about) the final audio recording in week 21. Next up (I think) is to return to the block text and return to where I was reading, and then to read a whole long list of tales I had noted down from the week 21 online materials. The final activity is to try to catch up on some of the tutorials, since I’ve missed a couple of them. I feel that my current study approach isn’t very systematic, but I feel as if I’m continuing to learn from everything.

There has been some various chats on one of the A233 Facebook groups: some fellow students are clearly enjoying this bit of the module. There are also some interesting opinions about Angela Carter. I don’t quite ‘get’ her stories yet, but other students and tutors really like her work. I’ve yet to work through the materials about Freud (which I’m a bit sceptical about, to say the least) but I’m hoping to get onto that today.

So, all in all, some progress. I am looking forward to the Shakespeare bit of the module when I get there.

30 March 2023

I think I’m getting behind since I have remained in my valley of marking for longer than expected.

I needed to decide how to spend my time. Rather than working towards writing TMAs, I needed to focus on marking TMAs. This said, a couple of weeks back, aware that thing were running away from me, I have read through a couple of chapters from the module materials – I just need to reassess where I am.

In addition to the work, I’ve had to drop everything to help my parents with a few things. This led me to ask myself another question: to help me keep on track, what can I practically do to keep on track, or to take a strategic approach with my studies? 

Knowing that I had a long car journey, I managed to listen to the audio version of Simon Armitage’s translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. This gave me a very good idea of what the text was all about. Completing this, I also managed to find an episode of In Our Time which covered the same text and also featured an appearance by Armitage. I this programme to be really helpful, adding a bit more context.

Aware that The Tempest is going to be featured in the EMA, I had a thought: could I adopt a similar approach? I found a Royal Shakespeare Company production in an online service called Drama Online, which all students can access. I watched the performance and tried to follow the text at the same time. Although useful, my immediate and full blown exposure to the play did cause me to miss some of the important details, such as who the characters were. My excuse being that I kept getting distracted, to view the play in a number of episodes,

There was a curious resource that was helpful: the CBeebies production of The Tempest. There also appears to be a CBeebies Radio version, which I’m mentioning here, just in case I get the time to have a listen! These links may, of course, stop working at any point.

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Preparing for the summer: A334 reading list

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Sunday, 31 Mar 2024, 09:46

In some ways, this short blog follows on from a blog I wrote last year, which has a similar title: Preparing for the summer: A233 reading list.

I’m writing this blog after having my registration for A334 English literature from Shakespeare to Austen confirmed. I'm probably getting ahead of myself since I still have a quite a lot to do on A233; one more TMA and an EMA, which I'm not really started to think about. 

Just like last year, to get ahead, I’m going to try to do a bit of reading over the summer. What follows is a reading list that I’ve liberated from the module information page. Where possible, I’ve provided a link to a version from Project Guttenberg which can be downloaded to an e reader (which is something that I’ll just before I go on holiday). Do note that the version that is linked to is, of course, different to the text that is referenced.

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 is often useful.

I’m clearly not going to get through all these in one summer since some of these texts are unfeasibly long. One thing that I have learnt from the study of the OU literature modules is that the reading is often quite directed. In this list there are some novels that I have always wanted to find the time to read; I’ve started reading the Austen novels a couple of times, so that is probably where I’m going to start.

I’ve adjusted the format of the reference to make them a bit more like the official CiteThemRight Harvard format which the university adopts.

Montagu, M. W. (2012) The Turkish Embassy Letters. Edited by T. Heffernan and D. O'Quinn. Broadview Press. ISBN 9781554810420

Kyd, T., (2009) The Spanish Tragedy. Edited by A. Gurr and J.R. Mulryne. (New Mermaids) Methuen. ISBN 9781408114216

Swift, J., (2002) Gulliver's Travels. Edited by A.J. Rivero. Norton. ISBN 9780393957242

Wycherley, W. (2014) The Country Wife. Edited by T. Stern, (New Mermaids) Methuen. ISBN 9781408179895

Molière (2008). The Misanthrope, Tartuffe and Other Plays. Edited by M. Slater. Oxford World's Classics. ISBN 9780199540181

Austen, J. (2019) Pride and Prejudice. Oxford World's Classics. ISBN 9780198826736

Austen, J. (2008) Persuasion. Oxford World's Classics. ISBN 9780199535552

Mack, R.L. (ed) (2009) Arabian Nights' Entertainments. Oxford World's Classics. ISBN 9780199555871

Daniell, D. (ed) (1998) The Arden Shakespeare: Julius Caesar. Methuen. ISBN 9781903436219

Shakespeare, W. (2009). As You Like It. Edited by M. Hattaway. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521732505

Rousseau, J.J. (2008) Confessions. Edited by P. Coleman. Oxford World's Classics. ISBN 9780199540037

Thompson, A. and Taylor, N. (eds) The Arden Shakespeare: Hamlet. Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781472518385

Additional note: judging by the reading list it does look like both Hamlet and Julius Caesar may well be studied. I have no idea what the two Arden Shakespeare study books contain. To prepare, I’ve provided links to ebooks for both of these plays:

Shakespeare, W. (2019) Hamlet. Project Guttenberg.

Shakespeare, W. (2023) Julius Caesar. Project Guttenberg.

A final note is that I'm sure whether the link to Arabian Nights' Entertainments is correct, but I'm sure I'll figure it out when I get to the study materials.


This reading list has been directly liberated from the A334 module website. I have no connection with the module team, and it is entirely possible that this reading list may change. Always rely on the recommendations from the module team, rather than any materials that are mentioned in this blog.

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Christopher Douce

A233 Journal – November 2023

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Monday, 1 Apr 2024, 09:51

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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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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Arts and humanities day school 2023

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

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

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

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

Part 1: Things to know about literature

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

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

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

What is literature?

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

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

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

Literature can be used to create new worlds.

It can also be used to develop and maintain culture.

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

What is literature for?

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

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

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

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

Why do we study literature?

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

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

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

Understand different points of view.

How do we study literature at the OU?

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

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

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

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

What can you do with literature?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

During the first session, I won an OU pencil! 

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

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

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

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

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

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A233 Journal - September 2023

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Sunday, 9 June 2024, 11:02

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 from 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 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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A230 Journal - April 2023

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1 April 2023

A serious post for April Fool’s Day!

I’m going through the block materials about Sam Selvon, and I’m quite enjoying it. I think I might go this direction in the EMA, but I have to read Lonely Londoner’s again.

2 April 2023

Just finishing up reading the chapter about Selvon, and then I move onto the chapter about Elizabeth Bishop, which is proving to be slow going. I find the readings and work through a couple of them, and find them to be quite difficult. As a bit of side reading, I have a quick read of a summary of Bishop’s biography.

10 April 2023

I’m pulling together a set of notes before pulling everything together for the EMA. Today I’ve been focussing on one of the set texts: The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon. Despite its obvious issues, I’m starting to really like this book.

11 April 2023

I’m moved on from Selvon and onto one of Joyce’s short stories. I read it again, underline some passages, read a review of the story, and then transcribe some quotes into my notes document. My next task is to make some notes from the module materials.

15 April 2023

I get a couple of hours to work through all my notes whilst on a short break. I move different notes into group of categories, set up a few subheadings, and a structure emerges: introduction, text 1, text 2, compare and contrast, conclusions. I manage to work on the introduction and the beginning to the text 1 section.

19 April 2023

I find a bit of time in my day job to do some writing. I cut a few notes and quotes that I feel I don’t need, and work on text that flows between the different sections.

20 April 2023

Another couple of hours for writing. I return to reading one of the texts, identify a couple of elements, and comment on these within the EMA document, and then completely change the conclusion, editing up a new version. It’s time to cut out all the temporary headings, see what my current word count is (I think I’m roughly on target), and get a printout ready for editing. I think I’m two days away from submission. Even if I need to make some further changes, I can go ahead and submit revisions before the cut-off date.

When I take out my structural headings and exclude my references, Word tells me that I’m slightly below the word count. I do some editing on my printed document using a pack of coloured pens: one colour that is an edit, and another colour that confirm that the edit has been actioned in the submission. After the edits, I’m a touch over, but only by a tiny amount.

I submit my EMA, ridiculously early.

Being a swot, I still hope to attend the EMA prep session that my tutor runs, just to make sure that I haven’t completely got the wrong end of any sticks.

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A230 Journal - March 2023

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9 March 2023

Has it really been so long since I last got my head down and did a bit of proper study? The answer is yes; there have been a few things going on, including a lot of TMA marking for the modules that I’m teaching, and also helping out my mum and dad with a few things.

Anyway, today was TMA results day! I’m very happy, and dare I say it, surprised with my results. My tutor offered some helpful comments, which suggests that I should consider the wider themes within a text when writing a thematic essay. I need to re-read his comments to really take them on board.

10 March 2023

I have a day of leave, so I’m going to do a bit of study.

There was a bit of chat in the WhatApp group about an audio book of Dubliners. Not having a subscription to Audible, and not really wanting to go through the fuss of setting up and account, and then cancelling, I’ve discovered a site called LibriVox, which has the subtitle: Acoustical liberation of books in the public domain.

It turns out there’s a version of Dubliners which can be downloaded. I’m going to give this a go.

Onto the block about The Twentieth Century. Before I go there, I’m going to have a rummage around the module website, to see how far behind I am.

11 March 2023

A day of catching up. I’ve noted the date of the next TMA. I’ve realised I don’t have much time. I briefly read the TMA question, which will help me with my reading of Dubliners.

After reading first two chapters of the blocks, I start re-reading Dubliners (which I had read over the summer), with help from LibriVox. It is going in this time; I’m making sense of it.

I also listen to a documentary about the publication of Dubliners that I found on BBC Sounds. This was both interesting and helpful. One expert claimed that Joyce uses the word ‘confused’, only once, within each of his short stories. So far, this seems to be the case, except ‘confused’ doesn’t feature within the first story, The Sisters.

12 March 2023

It’s back to re-reading Dubliners. I begin with the story, Two Gallants.

13 March 2023

It’s tutorial day! I start the day with another story from Dubliners.

15 March 2023

It’s strike day, which means I’m in a position to do a bit of uninterrupted study.

I’m now up to the final short story, which is actually quite a long story. When I’m done, I’ll then make a choice about which story to choose for the TMA.

I went on a slight study diversion, and found a web page that shares what is described as James Joyce reading from Ulysses https://lithub.com/listen-to-the-first-ever-recording-of-james-joyce-reading-from-ulysses/

I’m heading away tomorrow for a short break. I am, however, going to take my study block, and also the reading supplement. I need to get things together quite quickly, since TMA 5 is coming up quite rapidly.

18 March 2023

I spent a quite a bit of quality time with my books. I think probably four or five hours in total. I finished rereading The Dead. I read through the last chapter of the block I needed for TMA 5, and then had a good read of the poems in the reading supplement, getting through most of them. 

I really liked the New York texts; they really spoke to me. Whilst I appreciated the structure of the sonnets, I really liked the poems by Langston Hughes.

19 March 2023

A few more readings to get through, which didn’t take too long. I think I’ve chosen my texts for TMA 5.

20 March 2023

I had a quick read through chapters 1 and 2. I ask my tutor a question, who immediately responds; he offers me a helpful steer, which I am really grateful about. My next step was to create two notes files, filled with notes I’ve pulled together from all the text. There’s one for the final TMA, and another one for the EMA.

My next step: tomorrow, I’ll dig into the text of the text I’ve chosen, relating words back to the words of TMA question. I’ll begin with Dubliners in the morning, and then I’ll have another look at the texts I think I have chosen for the second part of the question. I should then have a set of ideas that I can start to mould into my TMA 5 submission.

26 March 2023

TMA writing day. A couple of days earlier I had collated a whole bunch of notes into my Word file; I have section headings, quotes from the module materials, quotes from the Joyce story, quotes from the poems, and all the references sorted out.

I begin the day with a printout of all my notes. I re-read a short story for a final time, and discovered a couple of elements that I had missed. Letting things sit with me had helped: I’m starting to get an idea what modernism is all about. Although the ambiguity that some elements are presented can be frustrating, it also become fascinating too.

I move paragraphs about, delete a whole set of quotes, write some linking text, added a couple of new bits, and write a short conclusion. I’m nearly done. I edit up the introduction, and get the word count down. I’m slightly over, but it’s okay. It’s good to go.

I go back to the website, to see what next: Sam Selvon and Lonely Londoners. I work through the video materials, which I really enjoyed.

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A230 Journal – February 2023

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5 February 2023

I’m getting a bit behind! I start to re-read the block materials, and return my attention back to the The Sign of Four.

8 February 2023

A trip to Milton Keynes, which mean I have a bit of time on a train. I pack The Sign of Four in a bag, but I didn’t get very far, since I was distracted by thinking about a meeting that happened when I got there.

9 February 2023

I’ve finished reading the chapter about The Sign of Four, and I’ve started reading the chapter about The Beach of Falesá.

10 February 2023

It’s tutorial time! I have to dip in and out of a tutorial, which is about the two set texts, and the concept of the thematic essay. I had planned on doing a bit more reading today, but didn’t manage it.

20 February 2023

I’m getting a bit behind with my logging, and my TMA writing. Over the last few days (except yesterday) I’ve been working through both of the set texts (or, set novellas, I should say). I went through the Sign of Four whilst listening to a fabulous audio book from BBC Sounds. This really helped me to get to grips with the detail of who was who, and what was going on. Although I had found something similar for The Beach of Falesá, it was an adaption. So, I read through the chapters a second time. There was quite a bit of detail that I had not picked up on.

Today I’m going to start writing my TMA. My approach is to begin with the references (the books and the chapters), then to review the materials from the tutorials, put in a structure into my TMA, and then write about the topics that the TMA question is asking about. I’m hoping that some of the texts, and the broad pondering about the themes have gone in. 

I’ll also have a quick look through the prose tutorial, and the resource about thematic essays, pulling out some headings, which I’ll probably delete.

26 February 2023

Phew! That was a bit of a slog!

I spent the whole of yesterday trying to organise all my notes, and to listen again to a recorded tutorial. My process was to begin with a structure, move all my notes between the different sections, and then start to see whether I could form some words to link everything together. Whilst doing all this, I had to keep referring back to TMA question.

The first bit came pretty easy, but I found it quite hard work to really say what I wanted to say; the words were just not coming easily, although through the process, I found myself understanding both texts in a lot of detail.

Of course, I had too many words.

I printed everything out, did something entirely different, and then did editing with a pen and paper. What I ended up with seems to be okay, but it’s not brilliant. What it does, of course, is to show that I’ve got a good understanding of both texts that we had to look at.


I’ve ticked a whole load of items on the module calendar, which tells me that I’m gradually getting there. I can scarcely believe that the EMA submission date, which takes place in May, is in sight.

Next up is Dubliners and cities. Although it’s too early to say, I think this might be my favourite bit.

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A230 Journal - January 2023

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6 January 2023

It’s tutorial day! I had one booked in for the start of this week with a different tutor, but I couldn’t attend, since I was travelling. 

In advance of the tutorial, we were sent two readings: one by Wordsworth, and another by Shelly. I have to admit that I hadn’t found the time to read either of these. 

After beginning with a brief summary of what romanticism is all about and how these different poets defined poetry, our tutor showed how he carried out close reading of passages from both of these authors. Whilst he was doing this, he showed us how to use some of the technical language that can be used to describe poetry. 

During the tutorial, I made notes, which I need to revisit. 

The next thing I need to do is highlight the technical terms that were used an applied.

7 January 2023

I’ve been ejected from an A230 WhatsApp group!

During an informal call with some A230 students, I did my duty as a tutor to emphasise that students should not be discussing answers to TMA questions.

A fellow student in the group referenced section 2.1 of the TMA assessment policy which contains the words: "discussing the material and ideas you are learning with your tutor and other students is beneficial and is encouraged. However, when you start to write your assignment you must make sure this is entirely your own work and you should not share it with other students." 

The policy is ambiguous. 

Sharing of your own work with other students could be done either textually or verbally. I sense that the policy ambiguity is deliberate since there are different ways to assess TMAs.

8 January 2023

Back to the module materials. I picked up where I left, finding my place thanks to a bookmark. It felt quite a long time since I was reading this section. I finish the section on Frankenstein, but I have made a mental note to return back again to the start of the section, so I have a good feel about the shape of the block and what it is discussing.

A glance at the module website says that I’m now a bit behind, which I’m not surprised about. I need to get back a bit more focus. 

I notice that I haven’t booked in any more tutorials between now and the TMA cut off date, and there haven’t been and recordings of the day school 2 event. Through the tutorial booking system, I notice that there is another one that I can now attend. 

My plan of action: after doing some catch up reading tomorrow morning (and making some notes), and after the forthcoming tutorial, I’m going to put all my attentions into my TMA.

9 January 2023

I’ve done what I promised myself: to re-read the two sections of the module block that we’re studying. I’ve also ticked off all the activity from week 12 that I’ve done, and I’ve found an additional PowerPoint presentation (from a tutorial) that relates to Wordsworth and Shelly in one of the module forums.

My next task (on the build up to the TMA) is to start the close reading of the texts highlighted in the TMA, and to get my head around the bigger picture of “Home at Grassmere” (which is reading 1.4).

10 January 2023

An online tutorial to attend! This would have been the second I have attended. The first, of course, was ran by my tutor. 

Although I was tired from a day of work, I found this one useful in terms of getting a feel for what the TMA is asking for.

I almost volunteered to read out some of the passages, but someone got there before me (which is what I’m telling myself).

11 January 2023

I’ve downloaded the PowerPoint that the tutor used with her tutorial, which I found very useful (I’ll look at it again, in combination with the one that my own tutor provided).

My next step of prep work: I print out the text that we have to read closely, making sure that I make the font a bit bigger. I also leave spaces between the lines, so I can scribble with different coloured pens.

I’m not doing too much today since I’m mentally addled. The final thing I do today is mark off two days: one day for TMA related reading, and another day for TMA writing. If I get my energy back tomorrow, I’m going to pour over the TMA instructions, the fragments of text used with the TMA, and the accompanying TMA guidance. I feel I’m building up a ‘head of steam’ towards the writing of the TMA (even though I don’t yet feel that I’m understanding the bigger picture).

13 January 2023

I’ve managed to get started! I’ve started to add a bunch of notes into my TMA template file, dividing it up into different sections. I’ve also read the text, and have been underlining sections with different colours; each colour relating to a different theme.

I’ve pretty much prepped part 1, which I have to write up into an answer.

My next steps: a tutorial tomorrow, transfer notes from the tutorial into the TMA document, look through all the blocks again and highlight sections that are relevant, and then re-read the texts again.

I’m hoping that the last tutorial I’ll be attending before writing the assessment will help me to make sense of Wordsworth!

14 January 2023

Tutorial time. 

In this tutorial, we looked at a further fragment of a poem by Wordsworth, relating some of the technical language to the text. A useful tip was: “refer to the glossary”.

Towards the end of the tutorial, I wanted to ask a question (which was the broad question about the aim of a poem), and another student had a question about the structure of the TMA. Unfortunately, neither of us had our questions answered, since the tutorial didn’t have a Q&A section.

Thankfully, I have managed to answer my own question by going back to the module materials.

I spend the rest of the day preparing notes, and starting to write my TMA.

15 January 2023

Everything came together! I think I figured out what Wordsworth’s poem was all about, thanks to a very obscure reference in a paper that I discovered through the university library which was a source of inspiration.

17 January 2023

Submission day. I got a printout of my TMA and read through it with a cup of coffee and a pen, crossing out various sections, and finishing some partially completed sentences. I then submit the final version through the eTMA system, and send a quick note to my tutor, saying I no longer need an extension. It almost feels as if I’m back on target again.

18 January 2023

Back to the module materials. I’ve noticed I’m now slightly behind, so I start reading The Sandman by E.T.A.Hoffman. I quite like it, but I have no idea what it is all about. I get distracted by my day job, and have to return to my email inbox.

20 January 2023

Back to catching up. 

I finish reading The Sandman, and then get a printout of two of the other short stories that we have to read. Although these don’t feature within the TMAs, there is a possibility that they might be important when it comes to the EMA (which still feels a long way away).

My aim for today (which is a leave day from my main office work, except for an hour of training I have to do) is: read those two stories I’ve just printed, have another read of the block that relates to Hoffman, and then have a look through TMA 4 to get an early idea about what it is all about.

I want to have an early look at the next TMA since one of the students on a social media group mentioned that there is a book to go through that I haven’t (yet) had a chance to read.

21 January 2023

I didn’t manage to finish reading those two printouts, but I got pretty close. There was a bit of The Automata that took a bit longer to read. I found myself looking into the concept of the Mechanical Turk which I had heard about before (through my studies of computing).

Back to catching up: I worked through the audio-visual materials of weeks 15 and 16, making a set of notes as I go. I read Wuthering Heights (for the second time) over the summer, but I do need to have a proper read through of the block materials again.

Next step: reviewing where I am on the module website (whilst optimistically ticking off the current week), and looking to what is scheduled for the next few weeks ahead. I’ve already read The Sign of Four, so I’m going to prioritise reading The Beach of Falesá, since this is the text that features in the next TMA.

I feel as if I’m on target, which is good. I’m going to take a trip over the coming days, so I’ll make sure I’ve packed the module materials, the book by Stevenson, and my laptop.

25 January 2023

I spent the night at Milton Keynes, and I got up early and have a bit of time to kill before something called a Research Fiesta. I get back to reading The Beach of Falesá, and find my way through chapter 2. I was a bit confused about what was meant by all the “tabooing”, and some of the weird sentence structure Stevenson seems to adopt, but I’m starting to really like the story. I’m beginning to see where the module team are coming from in terms of the TMA question.

27 January 2023

A day on leave from most things, apart from some study. I read the penultimate chapter of The Beach of Falesá.

30 January 2023

On Sunday, I noticed that a fellow student had shared an article about a radio production of The Beach of Falesá, entitled Why Robert Louis Stevenson’s South Sea Tales go against the tides.

A quick search of BBC Sounds reveals a 2014 BBC Radio adaptation of the same text. I’ve listened to three quarters of it, getting to the part which I still need to read. I later discovered an accompanying Guardian article that relates to the recording.

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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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Christopher Douce

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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