Thursday, 22 September 2011

Back to school

October is nearly here and I am really looking forward to it for a number of reasons.The main one is that it heralds the official start date for my OU course- AA100 The arts past and present

I am doing this course as the first step towards the BA in English Literature that I hope to achieve. Doing a degree is an ambition that I have had for a long time but which has been on the back-burner due to time restraints.
However, now I am not working and my daughters are teenagers, there are a few spare hours in the day in which I can study.

Having received the course materials a few weeks ago, I have made a start already so that I can get ahead.

From what I have read so far, AA100 promises to be both a challenging and enjoyable experience.The subjects covered are extremely diverse and include chapters on Cleopatra, Stalin and The Dalai Lama. 

There is also a strong focus on analysing art, which is something that I have no knowledge of and of which I am a bit apprehensive.

Part of my first assignment involves analyzing this painting by Paul Cezanne, called (uninventively) Jug and Fruit.

  I think I am going to find this quite difficult as my first impression of the painting is sheer dislike. It is not something that I would choose to hang on my wall, no matter how renowned an artist Cezanne is.

Currently I am reading the play Doctor Faustus written by Christopher Marlowe.

 Marlowe was a contemporary of Shakespeare and there is a somewhat controversial theory that some of The Great Bard's plays were written by other authors of the time, Marlowe amongst them.

Having only studied Hamlet and Macbeth at school many years ago, I thought I would struggle to read the Renaissance language. However, by using the study notes and by also listening along to the play on CD whilst reading , I haven't found it difficult at all. In fact it has been a very enjoyable experience.

Without giving too much away, the play tells the story of Doctor Faustus, an extremely intelligent but greedy man who sells his soul to Lucifer in exchange for 24 years of service from the demon, Mephistopheles.
The play, which was written around 1592 is based on the German legend Faust. It wasn't published until 1604, 11 years after Marlowe's death.

The story of Christopher Marlowe's life would make a fascinating book in its own right. He was born in the same year as William Shakespeare and studied at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. While there, it is believed that he was recruited as a spy for the Government and disappeared for a while, later returning to obtain his MA.

In 1587, he went to London to become a playwright and wrote several plays including The Jew of Malta, Edward II and The Massacre at Paris.

What is more fascinating for me though is his life outside writing. He was frequently in trouble with the police for brawling and was charged with murder in 1589 when a man died during a street fight. Marlowe was sent to Newgate Gaol where he spent two weeks. He was later acquitted of the charge. It was apparent that Marlowe had "friends in high places" who saved him from getting into serious trouble.

 Marlowe is possibly more famous for his death than anything else. In 1593 at a house in Deptford belonging to a Mrs Eliza Bull,  Marlowe was eating supper with three other men- Ingram Frizer, Nicholas Skeres and Robert Poley. An argument broke out over who was to pay the bill and Marlowe is said to have grabbed Frizer's dagger and hit him over the head with it. A fight broke out which resulted in Marlowe being stabbed through the right eye by Frizer. He died instantly.

The coroner found that Frizer was acting in self-defence and received a royal pardon for the charges against him. However, Frizer, Skeres and Poley were all three quite shady characters and it is now believed in some quarters, that he was assassinated for his heretical beliefs or his involvement in the secret service. Very James Bond!

I find the whole story quite fascinating and  think it would make a brilliant topic for a novel and or a film. Quite surprised that it hasn't been done before.

Anyway that's today's history lesson over with- I have more study to do

Catch you all later




  1. Hi Tracey, thanks for visiting my blog earlier! It's a small world because I'm stuyding towards an English literature degree with the OU, too! I finished AA100 at the end of September, and have now moved onto A150 Voices and Texts and A174 Start Writing Fiction. Hope you're enjoying AA100 - it's a lot of work but is so interesting and you learn so much. :)

  2. Hi Sophie
    Thanks for your comment. It is indeed a small world. I wish I could say that I am enjoying AA100 but I am really not. I am doing it because I have to and I am finding that it is too wide ranging. I am registered to start A230 in the Autumn which I am really looking forward to. Thanks for your visit.