A103 TMA08

TMA08: The Sixties

TMA08 is an interdisciplinary assignment relating to Block 6. When you have completed it, please send it to your tutor to arrive no later than 16 May 2008.

Please remember that this assignment is non-substitutable and carries a threshold of 30%.

You should answer this question in an essay of no more than 2,000 words.

How far were the Sixties distinctive in their own right and how significant were they in bringing about changes? Discuss with reference to any two or three of the disciplines represented in Block 6.

Guidance note
Whether or not you agree with either or both parts of the question, this assignment requires you to test this general view of the Sixties against the specific examples of social, cultural, religious, artistic and scientific enterprise examined in Block 6. You should choose two or three of the five disciplines – History, History of Science, Religious Studies, Music, Art History – and consider how distinctive and significant were developments in those fields during the 1960s. To answer the question, you will need to discuss the concept and practicality of historical periodisation (sic!), for which you should refer to pp.18-23 of Units 25-26. Note that you will need to do this regardless of whether History is one of the disciplines you choose for the bulk of your answer. You are recommended to use no more than 500 words of your essay, or two paragraphs, discussing this concept. For the rest of your essay you should show how appropriate the statement is in providing a contextual framework for any two of the five disciplines in Block 6. If you answer with reference to History you should draw on examples from Units 25-26 to support your argument. If you answer with reference to any of the other disciplines, History of Science, Religious Studies, Music or Art History, you should draw on examples from the relevant units.

If Music or Art History are among the disciplines you choose, you should consider what factors other than notable public events and changes might be useful in making divisions of period. For instance, how much weight should be given to specific traditions or movements, to major changes in musical or artistic style, or even to significant moments in the careers of individuals? These may coincide with the kinds of events and changes that historians consider decisive, but if they don’t, should we just ignore the evidence they seem to offer? You should argue your case by using specific examples from Block 6 and Resource Book 4. Do not write a narrative history of the 1960s, but rather use your essay to develop an argument that will lead you towards a conclusion that either supports, refutes or qualifies the assertions at the heart of the question.

OU and podcast query

A public answer to a private email from a non-broadband internet user…

Should the podcast go in to detailed discussion of OU-related activities, it would be reflected in the podcast notes. I hope that deals with your question?


A103 TMA07

TMA07: Block 5 comparison

This assignment related to Block 5 and you will be dealing with two different works. When you have completed the assignment, please send it to your tutor to arrive no later than 4 April 2008.

Pleas remember that this assignment is non-substitutable.

You should answer this question in an essay of no more than 1,500 words.

Choose two works from Block 5. Discuss the ways in which your two chosen texts exploit the traditions and conventions of their genre both formally and in terms of content. You might find it useful to consider points of comparison between your chosen texts. Credit will be given for attempting a comparison between works of different genres, but you don’t have to do this.

The four main texts studied in Block 5 are:

Work Genre Author
Pygmalion Drama Shaw
Media Drama Euripides
Don Juan Symphonic poem Strauss
Wide Sargasso Sea Prose fiction (novel) Rhys

Guidance notes

Pygmalion – Wide Sargasso Sea
Your starting point might be the word ‘exploit’ in the question: remember that this can mean using traditions and conventions in an established way and challenging, adapting or even flouting those same traditions and conventions. Block 5, Unit 19, offers plenty of guidance on the dramatic conventions and the myths and traditions used in Pygmalion. Consider how Shaw is exploiting the structure of the five-act play, the conventions of comedy, and Ovidian myth and fairy tale. Block 5, Unit 23, contains ample guidance on the novel as a genre and its conventions and structure; it also relates Wide Sargasso Sea to library traditions and myths. Consider the ways in which Rhys structures her novel, how it relates to the novelistic tradition as embodied in Jane Eyre, and how the perspectives, style and characterisation used in the novel relate to established or accepted conventions. If you choose these two texts, you may wish to discuss to what extent these authors may be regarded as flouting or attempting to reform generic conventions and traditions.

If you choose to work with Medea, you need to look for the main traditions and conventions of Greek tragic drama before you can work out how Euripides exploited them. These include the structure of the play (Units 20-21, p.60), dialogue (pp.60-61), mythical content (pp.69, 87-91), theatrical space (pp.69-78), and aspects of performance such as actors, masks, costumes, movement, including the deployment of the chorus and stage machinery (pp.61-3). However, you are not being asked to give a survey and should avoid a straight summary of traditions and conventions. A better approach is to feed information on conventions and traditions into your discussion of how they are exploited. For example, you might examine how the device of stichomythia is used in a particular episode, perhaps one of the three involving Medea and Jason (p.56). You are also being asked to look at both form and content. Your essay should include examples of both, even if they are discussed together. You will find the Glossary (pp.113-15) useful for the formal elements of Greek tragedy and may wish to refer to Margaret Williamson’s article in Resource Book 3, D9, when considering such issues as the representation of public and private space in performance.

Don Juan
You are advised to reread pp.136-40, paying particular attention to the discussion of the musical traditions that Strauss could call on when writing a large-scale orchestral work. You might find it helpful to reread some of the detailed discussion of Don Juan and think about the conventions associated with specific instruments.


A103 TMA06

Religious Studies or History of Science

This assignment relates to Block 4. When you have completed it, please send it to your tutor to arrive no later than 22nd February 2008.

You are asked to answer one question only from the two printed below. Both questions require you to write an essay of no more than 1,200 words.

Religious Studies

How far do you think observing a visible religious activity, such as a festival, can help you to understand the part a religion plays in the life of an individual and a community?

Guidance note:
Units 14 and 15, together with DVD2, Tracks 14 and 15, provide you with many and varied examples of visible religious activities. In discussing this question you can draw on these or any other examples with which you are familiar. It is up to you whether you take a wide range of visible activities or simply discuss one in great detail. If you wish to focus on one, Unit 15 gives you more than enough to work on in its examination of the Hindu festival of Durga Puja, or, of course, you can find your own example.

The purpose of the question is to test your understanding of the kind of model that scholars might use when they set about studying a religion. Units 14-15, Section 4, devote considerable attention to Ninian Smart’s ‘dimensional model’ and the units return to this on several occasions. In discussing this kind of approach, however, the units also emphasise that many of the claims and experiences associated with religious activity are not so open to investigation. In planning your answer, you will need to give careful thought to the examples you intend to use, ensure that you show what the observation of your examples tells us about their place in the lives of individuals and communities, and, finally, give some consideration to the issue that lies at the heart of the question – how far you think this kind of approach takes us in trying to understand the religious activity you have encountered.


History of Science

Assess the claim that Alfred Russell Wallace is a casualty of our preoccupation with scientific heroes.

What evidence could be drawn on to support or contradict this assertion?

Guidance note
You will need to draw on Block 4, Units 16-17, to consider how notions of the scientific hero were formed in Wallace’s own time and subsequently. This in turn involves assessing what counted as credible scientific achievement in nineteenth-century England and what could compromise that sense of achievement and the corresponding image of heroism. The discussion of ‘science’ and ‘scientists’ in Section 2 and 5, the historical background surrounding scientific achievement in Section 3, and some comparative points made about Charles Darwin and Wallace, should provide ample material for your discussion.

Personal note of substantial irritation:
I am so fucking annoyed with this question that frankly I find it difficult to articulate myself without swearing.

Why on earth do the guidance notes restrict the student to (and I quote) nineteenth-century England?

Wallace wasn’t even English – he was born in Wales and his family ancestry is firmly rooted in Scotland (I’ll give you a clue guys, look at his surname!).

But on a wider issue – was there no scientific community in the rest of Great Britain?

Of course there bloody well was – with the majority of scientific output at this time coming from Scotland rather than England.

Presumably this mis-sighting is all down to some complete and utter ignorant twat at the Open University thinking that England is Great Britain.

I’ve got news for you twat.

The reality is that England is a component rather than the whole.

With – presumably – high-level people at the OU having mindsets like this, what chance does the quality of the rest of the course stand?


OU musings

The penny’s dropped.

Here’s what’s wrong with the Open University’s business practices in the 21st Century.


Yes, recycling is not a good thing.

How can it be?

Well… (takes a breath)…

Given that we live in the 21st Century and have all the ready means to communicate openly – world-wide – at our fingertips, how can it be a good thing to:

* Re-use assignments, time after time after time after time?
* Set the same questions to those assignments, time after time (etc)?

Whilst it’s true that the OU has – and has had for some time – an internal series of electronic forae (what is the plural of forum?) it’s also true that those platforms of communication are heavily (and sometimes clumsily) moderated; any undue sharing of information is noted with the perpetrators receiving public admonishment and, probably, private words too.

The OU’s business model is to re-use assignments and questions – indeed, the assignments I started A103 off with are now being used by a new batch of students.

I know this to be true because the number of people who have been searching answers.com for answers to questions that vexed me (and all others) at the start of the course has just cruised upwards past 200 hits per day.

I haven’t added in the google stats yet!

I think there are two things here:

1. That the OU internal forums aren’t attractive to over 200 people per day, and
2. That over 450 people per day are prepared to use answers.com and google to provide the answer to whatever question it is they’re looking at.

How soon do you think it will be before one of the Internet’s essay writing organisations latches on to the OU’s somewhat static business model and seek, well, to profit by it?

Or what’s to prevent an altruistic student setting up a website under a pseudonym where OU students can read the answers of others?

And don’t think that people won’t share their marked papers; I know of one tutor group where all of their marked assignments are shared but – I will admit – this is because of group dissatisfaction with their tutor’s performance and lack of consistency.

But my point here has been made – students do share their marked papers.

Yes, yes, yes… I know the OU uses an algorithm to spot similarities in electronic submissions, but again, there are two things here:

1. Any half-competent editor can alter and even improve a 1,500-word piece with less than 15-minutes of keystrokes and
2. I wonder if only electronic submissions are passed through that algorithm? Or do the OU scan and check manual submissions too? I suspect the answer to the latter question is all too probably ‘no’.

And what about the students?

How do they feel about having their assignments and questions so widely circulated when, essentially, the students have paid for them?

Let’s not forget that they are the paying customers – and paying heavily for some courses.

How do the earnest, honest, diligent feel about recycling under these circumstances?

Are they getting value for money from the OU?

Are their assignment grades protected or are they being threatened with being devalued?

This year’s range of school students will not sit the same papers that last year’s students sat.

The reason for this (in these core curriculum days) is obvious.

It seems to me, the more I think about it, that the business model the OU are using isn’t well-suited to the growth of Web2.0 and communications technologies of today.

But then again I could be wrong – it’s not been unknown!

I’m not voicing any dissatisfaction with the OU per se. I am, however, noticing what seems to be a vulnerability in their business model.

The daft thing is, my friends, that one project I am currently working to deliver is a method of improving collaboration and communications between Britain’s scientific community!

No irony in this situation at all then!



Stretching before me is?

Ah, the weekend.

Or, as the French might say, Le Weekend.  🙂

I sit here contemplating all of the things I could be doing with the forthcoming five two days.

Then I think about all of the things I should be doing.

Notice the subtle shift there?

OU Stuff Must Be Done Because I Am Miles Behind And That Is Not A Good Thing.

But (in the best tradition of British faux comedy set-pieces as notably explored in the final reel of The Italian Job – 1969 – which was, get this, written by Troy Kennedy-Martin, one of the UKs most talented screenwriters though, sadly, he did sully his hands with The Italian Job – 2003… pauses for breath then adds), ‘hold on lads, I’ve got an idea‘.

Yes indeedy.

An idea. Or an exclamation mark might be slightly more accurate.

There has been one feature about the Open University and the way the University has structured the courses that’s been troubling me.

Perhaps it’s troubled me because of my history in Registration and Inspection Perhaps it’s because of the divergence between the OU concept and 21st Century technologies.

I don’t know.  All I do know is that something troubles me and with a little brain-time (and perhaps half a dozen hours of sleep), I’ll have worked out where the problem is.

Riding is a sound strategy for getting the brain kicking in to overdrive.

No, really, it is. Brilliantly therapeutic!

Except I can’t do any riding because my wonderfully talented (and ever so handsome) Thoroughbred has an infected foot, so his near fore shoe was removed today, the hoof was excavated to allow the pus to drain and the wound is being poulticed to draw the infection out.

All being well the shoe will get re-attached on Wednesday, but the bottom line is there will be no riding exercise for either of us – but he does get the pleasure of lots of medicinal sliced apples this weekend.

And I get to clean tack which, in its own way, is also a therapeutic device. And perhaps take the lorry out for a spin to see how many motorists I can scare the pants off.

The other thing to tell you – apart from Vin’s poorly foot etc – is that there has been a change in my work situation.

Surprisingly, but flatteringly, I have been offered another role (not a contract extension) at the same place. This one is for three months which although shorter than normal, I just can’t say ‘no’ to because the task is to deliver a project which I have already been involved in (in a ‘requirements gathering/stakeholder managing’ kind of way).

Yeah I know. Workspeak. Sorry about that. It shouldn’t be here.

But it’s work news and I felt I needed to get the news out and therefore set the context of the offer which, in turn, highlights the reason I couldn’t wait to say ‘yes please!’… because I already feel as though I own the project – because of my earlier involvement in it.

Pauses for breath again.


With the big hand on the 15 and the little hand on the five and the long thin hand on the two, three, four, five, six, seve… oh buggerit.

It’s time to go.

The drive home awaits.

And during it, a couple of episodes of the Audio Book I’m currently listening to – Pussy: The Musical.

Oh yes.

I’m lapping it up.


A103 TMA05: Art History and Philosophy

This is an interdisciplinary assignment on Study Weeks 10, 11 and 12. When you have completed it, please send it to your tutor to arrive no later than 25th January 2008.

In no more than 1,200 words, complete the following assignment:

This assignment is divided into three parts. You may use sub-headings in your answer.

1. How does Rousseau argue that obedience to the general will increases our moral liberty? Briefly discuss one reasonable objection to the claim that obeying the general will would increase our freedom.

2. What evidence can be put forward in support of the claim that David sought to give visual form to political ideas in The Lictors Returning to Brutus the Bodies of his Sons (Illustration Book, Colour Plate 41)?

3. What areas of shared concern can you identify between Rousseau’s argument in The Social Contract and David’s Brutus?


A103 TMA04: History

Read carefully the following extract, which is from a speech made by Jacques Roux before the French Convention on 25th June 1793:

[extract not reproduced here for copyright reasons]

Imagine that you are writing a study of Paris during the Terror. In an essay of no more than 800 words consider the following three questions:

1. What kind of primary source is this and what strengths and weaknesses does it have as a source for your study?

2. Are there any particular words and phrases in the document that require elucidation or special comment before you can make use of it?

3. What can you lean from this source with respect to Paris during the Terror? You should distinguish, where appropriate, between witting and unwitting testimony.

When you have completed it, please send it to your tutor to arrive no later than 4th January 2008.


Piece Of The Action

Well my droogies, my hectic wectic social life climbs ever higher to an unbelievably astronomical peak.

This evening: OU Tutorial.

My appetite whetted but I can barely contain my trousers myself in preparation for…

Tomorrow evening: The Yard Christmas Meal. This is a tough call because it’s also Reader’s Group but as I haven’t finished Cranford I considered not going to The Yard Christmas Meal for 1.47383847765428442 nanoseconds before rejecting the notion. Mind you, knowing my luck I’ll end up sitting next to young Laura! The shame is that Tracey isn’t going. She’s a laugh when she’s had a skinful. Anyway…

As if these events aren’t enough to slake ones Bacchanalian thirst…

Wednesday: the office Christmas lunch! Ah, joy of joys, love of loves, heartbreak of heartbreaks. The office Christmas lunch. So much part of institutional life it’s almost like a five year spell in Broadmoor. Actually this is a true story: It was one particularly awful office Christmas party that inspired the early section of my novel Crossing The Line. That part of the story really did happen – the ghastly paper hats, the terrible disco, the awful decorations and the people wearing inappropriate clothes. It’s all coming flooding back to me. I think I need to go and lie down. In a darkened room. With alcohol!

So tomorrow evening and the following lunchtime I shall be steering my way through some dodgy vegetarian dishes, not drinking booze and trying to avoid wearing prattish paper hats whilst observing some fellow members of my species in their (un)natural habitats.

Ho ho ho.