My first diary entry

August 18, 2015 § Leave a comment

Hi!

This is my first blog entry. I am starting this blog as a means to keep an online diary while studying for my degree in English. For this year, I will be logging a diary entry at the end of my study session in my chosen course modules, namely, Approaches to Text, Explorations in Literature, Introduction to Creative Writing, and Introduction to English Language.

The blog will be formatted with the following headings:

  1. Main Achievements
  2. Main Setbacks
  3. Feelings about Study
  4. Lessons learned
  5. Major tasks ahead
  6. Ideas for tackling next tasks

I would like to keep it informal, though, and will write the entries so that they will sound more like a journal entry rather than a report.

Well, so this is my first entry.

After having read the introductory chapters in each course module guidebook, I came up with a study plan as recommended. In a course of 22 weeks, or 30 weeks for Explorations in Literature, I will be devoting 10 hours per week per study subject. That will mean allocating from 5 hours 40 minutes to 6 hours and 20 minutes each day, except for Sunday, for study. It may sound like a lot but time flies when you are immersed in a book you’re reading, so I doubt that any less amount of time will be sufficient.

M biggest worry so far from reading the introductions is Approaches to Text. The course description sounds straightforward enough; issues, concepts and terms will be introduced that will enhance my studies throughout the programme. Mostly, the aim is to develop my analytical skills and to think broadly about the processes of interpretation and nature of English studies. A variety of approaches to texts will be introduced, including Marxist, feminist, historicist, postcolonial, and gay, lesbian and queer criticism. Others will be literature and cultural studies, like the relationship between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture and the broader question of value. What, then, is a big worry is that the final examination will be a three- hour long paper from the seven topics studied throughout the course. They recommend studying at least 5 or 6 topics to answer the questions from. All of these chapters will have sample essay questions at the end to practise writing essays. At least three essays are recommended for practising to get feedback from the tutors. Fundamentally, essays will be the only way to practise for the exam. Five required texts are chosen, which we should know pretty much inside out plus additional further reading if we intend to answer a question on the topic in the exam. The exam will be in two sections. Section A will ask for commentary on one or more examples offered, and Section B, responses in the essay form. The set texts will completely engulf me because I have no background knowledge in cultural and literary theory. I can only make out from the commentary next to the titles that one of the books will be a reference book for terms and concepts, another deals with the theoretical schools, yet another on the schools but more readable than the former, another deals entirely with learning how to read analytically and critically and the last one a collection of essays and documents.

What seems then is the key to actually acquiring these analytical skills in reading is that I should follow up each chapter with exercises given. Also important are the outcomes which I need to tick off on completion to make sure I have fully understood the topic under discussion. Many books arranged by topic are given that I need to read up on to be able to write an exam question in the case that I decide to answer it in the exam. Some are familiar such as Barthes’ Mythologies, or Gombrich’s Art and Illusion. Others are new waters to me, like those on literary theory and language and rhetoric. I guess my best bet is to read the texts and follow along not knowing exactly what I will be learning.

My strengths will be in Literature. Since I have studied it before at A-levels and later in university majoring in English Language and Literature, some of the texts will be familiar – Hamlet, Emma, the Metaphysical poets, Coleridge, even books I read at leisure, such as Joyce, Woolf, Dickens, Hardy, and others that were covered broadly in uni, such as Chaucer and Homer. Most of the study times will be at reading the texts itself. The activities and explanatory notes for the sample structured study syllabus are only for certain chosen texts. Others will need to be worked on by me similarly with more essay writing exercises and by reading past exam papers at the end of the guidebook. These will need to be practised under exam conditions (timed and closed book). VLE will have more of these past papers and the Examiners’ reports.

Creative Writing will be straightforward. Mostly centred around one chosen text each for prose, poetry and stage writing. And one essential text for each of these genres. I am to keep a writer’s notebook to jot down ideas and writings as the ideas come. I am pretty excited about this subject as this will be the only one out of the four that will allow a coursework to be submitted instead of an exam. (Yay!) One other perk is the VLE where I will be posting my writing and commenting on others’ writing. The main practice will be in imitating the writing of the works. Further reading is not essential but will be useful. Some of the bibliographies in the set texts will yield results, such as the Routledge list, for example. Important in the course is that with the exception of Creative Writing, all are required to submit a piece of formative assessment in the form of an essay or a creative piece for Creative Writing, that will not contribute to the final assessment.

Finally, English Language is a linguistics course. Very simple: read the required texts and answer an unseen paper. The syllabus is so easy to understand that it doesn’t require any more explanation. One piece of advice given at the end was that I am free to write whatever I wish but make sure that it presents a fluent and coherent argument. A first-class answer will not be a regurgitation but will show an independence of thought and critically contrast, compare, and engage with the material I am referring to before coming with an informed judgment of my own.

Today I made a headlong jump into the first text, Culler’s Literary Theory. A lot of ideas are being discussed, incorporating Derrida, Rousseau, and Foucault. It’s difficult to follow along when you’re more used to reading novels but upon rereading some parts, I think I am getting there.

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