Monday, 22 September 2008

My New Course Has Got Me Hooked

Even though I have been studying with the Open University for nearly nine years and have studied quite a number of courses (undergraduate and postgraduate) and have earned a BSc (Hons) along the way, I think that this new course has grabbed at me in a way that none of the others have quite managed. I just have to hope that this enthusiasm continues until the end of May next year when I have to submit my end of course assessment (ECA).

I am working towards a BA (Hons) in Humanities with the History of Science, Technology and Medicine. This course and one more will see me achieve this second degree, and I have already decided what my last course will be. I was involved in writing for my living when I was at work, all factual stuff, some technical and some organisational, so it made sense to take a creative writing course as my final module for this degree.

My present course is the first presentation of the OU's new Arts Foundation Course, and I am thoroughly enjoying the wide range of subject areas that it covers. The first section has been about Cleopatra, and highlighted the different ways in which she has been portrayed over the centuries. In Egyptian art she was the great Queen, to the Romans she was seen as a threat to Rome and responsible for the downfall of Mark Antony, and to Hollywood she has been portrayed as a woman whose beauty attracted both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, although contemporary art works did not show her to be the beauty that Hollywood depicted.

The second section of the course has been about Christopher Marlowe and his play Doctor Faustus. I have to admit that I knew very little about Marlowe other than that he was a contemporary of Shakespeare, and that he died young in somewhat mysterious circumstances. Additionally, I am not a great fan of Elizabethan theatre, and no matter how good Shakespeare's plays may be I will not be rushing to see any of them. In fact, the only Shakespeare play that I have seen right the way through is the Kenneth Branagh film of Much Ado About Nothing. So it was with some trepidation that I loaded the audio CDs of Doctor Faustus onto my computer, and then transferred them on to my iPod. I read the first part of the study material about Marlowe and then armed with a copy of the A Text of Doctor Faustus, I put in the earphones and sat to listen to Doctor Faustus on my iPod while following the text in the book.

It is amazing how mush easier it made following the blank verse, and iambic pentameter when listening to the actors playing the parts. There can be no doubt about it that it was a far more satisfactory way to follow the play; neither reading it to myself, nor listening to it in isolation, would have allowed me to understand it quite so well. The production was by BBC Radio 3 for the OU, and the actors were excellent, although I couldn't help thinking that one particular voice seemed very familiar to me but I just couldn't place it. Fortunately, the final track on the CD gave details of the actors playing the parts and I was put out of my misery. The voice that I recognized, and that I knew belonged to an actor that had played a significant part in something that I have watched many times, turned out to be that of David Bamber, the actor who played the awful Mr Collins in the BBC's much acclaimed production of Pride and Prejudice.

So now I have finished the second section of my first study book. Notes have been made and I have an appreciation of the Elizabethan play that I did not have before. The next section is about Paul Cezanne, so Art History and Art Appreciation are undoubtedly the areas that this section will cover.

This is a truly wide-ranging multi-disciplinary Arts/Humanities Foundation Course and I am racing through it at an incredible pace. I am already making notes for the first tutor-marked assignment (TMA) which comprises two short essays, each of 500 words. What makes this all the more incredible after the anxious time that I had getting the TMAs and ECA written for my last course, is that this course doesn't officially start until 4 October and the cut-off date for the first assignment to be with my tutor is not until 14 November.

But I know that a really awful period of depression can make studying very difficult for me. Concentration can become impossible and I can read a page countless times and not be able to tell you what it was about. So making sure that I get a good start to this course is very important to me, and I think that the structure of it, with it covering so many different subjects, and so many aspects of those subjects, is more likely to keep me on track than a course that deals with one subject matter from beginning to end.

Studying has kept me sane sometimes during these last 10 years, and have given me something to focus on when everything seemed to be against me. This course has renewed my desire to enhance my education, and my knowledge, and I am sure will ultimately help me to get through some very dark hours.


Oreste said...

Hello, a salute from Rome. Ciao

alhi said...

Your course does sound interesting, as does the overall degree. I studied history of medicine as part of my GCSE course and loved it. I'd love to go back now and study the history of individual diseases and how they have been overcome or treated better. My own personal favourites to learn more about would be hip replacement surgery and the recognition of depression as a valid illness.
A couple of years ago I travelled to London especially to see an exhibition in the Royal College of Surgeons to see "A History of Hip." No one could believe that it was my only reason for going! My GP was amazed and her husband (my orthopaedic surgeon) would have loved to have seen it as well.
Thanks for the advice over the salary issue.