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A111 - November 2020

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Friday, 1 Jan 2021, 16:02

1 Nov 20

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

3 Nov 20

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

7 Nov 20

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

I’ve submitted TMA 1! 

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

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

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

8 Nov 20

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

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

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

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

9 Nov 20

Mozart in Vienna.

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

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

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

11 Nov 20

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

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

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

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

12 Nov 20

It’s the first thing in the morning.

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

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

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

15 Nov 20

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

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

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

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

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

18 Nov 20

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

20 Nov 20

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

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

22 Nov 20

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

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

23 Nov 20

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

25 Nov 20

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

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

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

Onto Van Gogh; who I know very little about. 

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

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

26 Nov 20

I enjoyed finishing reading the Van Gogh unit.

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

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

29 Nov 20

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

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

I look through the TMA.

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

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

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

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

My choice: Mozart and Dickens.

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A111 Journal – October 2020

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Friday, 1 Jan 2021, 15:54

3 Oct 20

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

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

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

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

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

9 Oct 20

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

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

11 Oct 20

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

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

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

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

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

13 Oct 20

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

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

24 Oct 20

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

25 Oct 20

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

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

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

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

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

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

30 Oct 20

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

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

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

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