Through the looking glass (or should that be wallpaper?)

A lot of stuff has happened since my last blog post.  It has been Christmas, I have managed to relax and get a proper mental break from my day job for the first time in months.  It really has been that long and work really has been that stressful over the last 12 months or so.  I have also gone back to work and realised things are better this side of Christmas and it wasn’t just a vain hope they would be.  That leaves me more mental energy to think about my study.  Also I passed my driving test this week.  I am still on cloud nine about it – I am so, so thrilled to have done it and have that out of the way.  I passed on my first attempt, which surprised every one including my driving instructor and me.  As if that all weren’t enough, I have started a new course this term with a strong analytical (philosophy) focus.  Although that is rather intimidating it is also really good to learn about another way of thinking about and exploring the world, especially one that feels so far from what I have been doing already.  Last, but not least, I have finished the essay I was working on and submitted it and so it is an appropriate time to put down some of my thoughts about the writing of it.  One of the things I find interesting and useful to reflect on, aside from the course content, is how writing the essay changed my outlook; how I went about writing it, how that changed as I did it; how my writing skills have progressed and how it all came together to produce a piece of writing that consolidated my learning, pushed me to explore my ideas more fully, realise trains of thought that were only half embarked upon (and, hopefully) that someone else can read and get something out of.  The reflective element of my interest and thinking can be traced back to my undergraduate degree, where it was explicitly encouraged to take a reflective attitude to learning and I find it has served me well both in life and in my return to study.  It is an amazingly well put together programme and I owe it and my programme convenor a great debt for all the skills I learned during my time studying it.

I will steer this post back to the recent term paper, though.  On reflection(!), I really enjoyed writing it.  I was anxious about it when I started writing it, but once I had realised that the writing was progressing more quickly than I thought I relaxed a bit about it.  I did go back and work on it a bit more on Christmas Eve in the end so by Christmas day I had written approx 2,500 words, which is half the bugger!  I was thrilled by how quickly it came together.  The other two papers I have written seemed to progress more slowly then that.  That is probably partly because I have had more practice by the time I got to this one and partly because the subject matter was less impenetrable.  The other two papers I have written have had a focus of being writing about the problems/traps we fall in to with written communication.  As I learned, it is bloody hard to write sensibly and compellingly about the traps we fall in to with written communciation when you are writing.  Kettle? Pot??  The latest paper, having the focus of a literary text (which was “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman) was in some senses easier to physically write.  Another thing that I found fascinating about it was that the literary text shaped the essay in a way that I didn’t anticipate.  Obviously I expected the literary text to shape the essay, but originally I chose it because I thought it would resonate with and demostrate some of the theoretical points I wanted to bring out.  However as I was writing the essay I realised that the text seemed to have some ideas of its own … the essay was much more about the text than I had originally anticipated and I think this was a significant improvement and made it balance in a much nicer way.  By nicer I think I mean more aesthetically pleasing and more intellectually engaging.  I also realised that I have a greater/deeper personal engagement with the lit text than I had first thought.    So now I just have to wait and see what the tutors make of it.  I should get the marks back in about a month.  I am just so glad I wrote it though.  There were times when I really didn’t want to. I didn’t want to think about it, I didn’t want to research it and I didn’t want to sit and write it.  Another amazing thing about it is that it is proof to me that I did learn an awful lot from last term’s course.  I deliberately took a course that was about literary theory and reading/interpreting texts (with the great name of ‘Theory in Practice’ which completely sums it up!) as I know very little about the theoretical frameworks and schools of thought on literary readings.  I really wanted to have a go at reading some literary texts in this way and to be exposed to the ways of going about it.  The course allowed me exactly that and also gave me the motivation to read some really great literature that I didn’t even know existed.  At the end of it all I managed to write an analysis of a specific text that has moved and does still move me greatly and that also illuminated/provided context for some theoretical points that I think are worthy of further consideration.

Is that really what I did?  Did I do that??  Not convinced – there must have been a mistake somewhere.  I am just fiddling about pretending I know that I am doing and getting to read amzing stuff and talking to intelligent and inspiring people.

I have another course this term and then I have to write my dissertation over the summer.  I am excited about both and had a fantastic meeting with my dissertation supervisor yesterday.  Yes, that’s right!! I have found myself a dissertation supervisor without using extortion and he hasn’t laughed at my ideas yet!  Will wonders ever cease?  I will write more about this before long because it is just so very exciting! It is a wonder I can sit still at the moment actually …

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