Courses, links, polls, discussion, articles and news from the Arts Faculty for those with an interest in, or studying, Art History, Classical Studies, English and Creative Writing, Ethics, Heritage Studies, History, Interdisciplinary Studies, Music, Philosophy and Religious Studies.
Christina Lloyd, Director, Students at The Open University, said:
“Our students continue to rate us very highly. At a time of increasing pressures on students and changes in higher education, it is great to see such a high level of student satisfaction throughout the sector. Since we were founded over 40 years ago, the student experience has been at the very heart of what the OU stands for, so to maintain a place in the top five in terms of student satisfaction for nine years running is something of which we can be very proud.”
The Open University was also rated highly in the individual UK nations, with the OU in Wales and the OU in Scotland having the highest overall satisfaction rating compared with higher education institutions in their respective nations.
As in previous years, The Open University in Ireland was also the highest rated university for student satisfaction in Northern Ireland.
The UK universities with the highest ratings for student satisfaction in the 2013 survey were:
University of Bath
University of Buckingham
University of St Andrews
The Open University
University of Surrey
University of Oxford
University of Exeter
University of St Mark and St John
The overall satisfaction ratings for The Open University in the UK nations were:
The number of Open University students surveyed was 26,452 – the largest sample size of any UK higher education institution. By contrast, the next largest was Manchester University at 7,512.
Photo of new graduates at OU degree ceremony by Karen Parker
The Open University has once again achieved one of the highest ratings for student satisfaction amongst UK universities in the 2013 National Student Survey – achieving an overall satisfaction rate of 92%. The result means the OU has been ranked as one of the top five universities each year since the survey was first carried out in 2005. The survey, commissioned by ...
OU graduate Steven A. McKay (pictured) is a meter reader/data-logger installer for G4S by day, and a writer of historical fiction by night. His debut novel Wolf's Head, based around the life of Robin Hood, reached number 2 in Amazon's Kindle "War" chart. In this Platform interview his top writing tip is 'write when you feel like it'.
I fit my writing in at night, when my five-year old daughter has gone to bed, but I'm constantly planning scenes in my head, so when I DO sit down to write, I have a decent idea of where to go with it.
Did your OU study have an effect on your writing?
Not directly, but I learned a lot from my OU courses about discipline when it comes to writing. I would often be up until near midnight trying to finish an assignment when I was studying for my degree, and that stayed with me when it came to writing a full-length novel. Also, planning OU essays really developed my ability to skim textbooks and take research notes which is vital when writing historical fiction.
I studied for about six years for my Open Uni degree and when I finished I was left with a bit of a gaping hole where my studying used to be. So it's been great to carry on my journey by writing a novel that's done so fantastically well in its first month of release.
What influenced you to write this particular book?
I was at work, thinking how I'd like to write something about a British hero, like King Arthur, but I couldn't think who would fit. Literally seconds later I drove into a street and saw a house with the name Sherwood. That was it – I had to write about Robin Hood, what other choice did I have?
How different is your Robin Hood from the one we are familiar with?
Almost every Robin Hood tale is a) set in the 12th century and b) set in Nottingham and Sherwood Forest. I looked right back at the very first ballads and realised Robin originally came from the Yorkshire area, and operated around Barnsdale forest, so right away I had two fresh foundations to base my novel on. Also, although I retained all the well-loved characters like Tuck,Will Scarlet and Little John, I've tried to give them realistic backgrounds and make them real people rather than just the stereotypical 'merry men'.
How many more books do you plan to write in this series?
I plan on only making the series a trilogy – I've read a few series which go on well past their sell-by date, and I'd rather not do that. That said, one character in particular, Sir Richard-at-Lee, a Knight Hospitaller in my novel, has become a favourite of mine, so I'm thinking of doing something with him in the future.
You published Wolf's Head yourself. How easy was it?
On self-publishing – a lot of people seem to be quite scared of the process but it's actually very simple. I bought a great book called Publishing E-books for Dummies by Ali Luke and it was a huge help, particularly when it came to formatting my Word document. Once you have your file all neat, you just need to have a cover for the book (use a professional designer, please!) and click a button to upload it. It really is that simple to get started.
Steven lives in Old Kilpatrick, near Glasgow. He graduated from the OU with a BA Open.
OU graduate Steven A. McKay (pictured) is a meter reader/data-logger installer for G4S by day, and a writer of historical fiction by night. His debut novel Wolf's Head, based around the life of Robin Hood, reached number 2 in Amazon's Kindle "War" chart. In this Platform interview his top writing tip is 'write when you feel like it'. When do ...
Rosemary's is the first in a series of cases exploring the real-life ethical challenges faced by medical ethics committees. You can hear the full story in the first episode of Inside the Ethics Committee, presented by Joan Bakewell on BBC Radio 4 tomorrow Thursday 8 August at 9 am.
Some of the ethical issues raised in the series can be further explored on OpenLearn.
Inside the Ethics Committee is an Open University/BBC series. Academic advisor is Dr Christopher Belshaw, senior lecturer in Philosophy at The Open University.
Rosemary has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and is a full-time wheelchair user. Now aged 36 and in the early stages of a relationship, she asks for assisted conception. Should the medical fertility team help Rosemary get pregnant? Rosemary's is the first in a series of cases exploring the real-life ethical challenges faced by medical ethics committees. You can hear the ...
In another OU-BBC collaboration Matthew discovers how our lives connect to some of the trickiest philosophical problems ever conceived. Free will, exploitation, sex, sexism, blame and shame are just some of the topics to be mulled over in this latest series.
Check the broadcast times on the BBC Radio 4 website.
The series starts on Tuesday, 30 July 2013.
Posted on 25 July 2013.
Matthew Sweet returns to BBC Radio 4 with 'The Philosopher's Arms', a very special pub where moral dilemmas, philosophical ideas and the real world meet for a chat and a drink. More In another OU-BBC collaboration Matthew discovers how our lives connect to some of the trickiest philosophical problems ever conceived. Free will, exploitation, sex, sexism, blame and shame are ...
But no longer. There is now evidence suggesting that Humanities graduates have made a significant contribution to UK economic growth and are adept at spotting new trends.
Research just released by Oxford University finds that the proportion of its Humanities graduates employed in key economic growth sectors rose substantially between 1960 and 1989, reaching 20 percent in some sectors.
And a substantial increase in Humanities graduates employed in growth fields often preceded the shift in government prioritising of these sectors.
"Although it is widely recognised that the humanities have intrinsic value as well as utility, the need to demonstrate the impact and value of the study of humanities to the economy and society has intensified during the recent economic crisis," said Professor Shearer West, Head of Humanities at the University of Oxford.
The research looked at the career paths of 11,000 Oxford graduates in English, History, Philosophy, Classics and Modern Languages.
You can read the full report Humanities Graduates and the British Economy: The Hidden Impact online.
Posted 15 July 2013
Arts and Humanities students sometimes suffer from hearing their subjects dismissed as 'a luxury' and 'not useful' when compared to science, computing or business. But no longer. There is now evidence suggesting that Humanities graduates have made a significant contribution to UK economic growth and are adept at spotting new trends. Research just released by Oxford ...
The ghost of an Armenian captain threatens Turkey's attempt to subvert the forthcoming 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, writes journalist and honorary OU graduate Robert Fisk.
Confronted by the chilling hundredth anniversary of the genocide of one and a half million Armenian men, women and children at the hands of the Ottoman Turks in 1915, Turkey's Government is planning to swamp memories of the Armenian massacres with ceremonies commemorating the Turkish victory over the Allies at the battle of Gallipoli in the same year. Already, loyalist academics have done their best to ignore the presence of thousands of Arab troops among the 1915 Turkish armies at Gallipoli – and are now even branding an Armenian Turkish artillery officer who was decorated for his bravery at Gallipoli as a liar who fabricated his own biography. In fact, Captain Sarkis Torossian was personally awarded medals for his courage by Enver Pasha, Turkey’s war minister and the most powerful man in the Ottoman hierarchy.
The greatest hero of Gallipoli was Mustafa Kemal who, as Ataturk, founded the modern Turkish state. But in view of the desire of some of Turkey's most prominent historians to brand Torossian a fraud, the word ‘modern’ should perhaps be used in inverted commas.
Now these academics are even claiming that the Armenian army captain invented his two medals from the Enver. Yet one of the most the outspoken Turkish historians to have fully acknowledged the 1915 genocide, Taner Akcam, has tracked down Torossian’s family in America, met his granddaughter, and inspected the two Ottoman medal records; one of them bears Enver Pasha’s original signature.
His memoirs, From ‘Dardanelles to Palestine’, were first published in Boston in 1947. Ayhan Aktar, professor of social sciences at Istanbul Bilgi University, first came across a copy of the book 20 years ago and was amazed to learn – given Turkey’s attempt to annihilate its entire Armenian population in 1915 – that there were officers of Armenian descent fighting for the Ottomans. The eight month battle for Gallipoli – an Allied landing on the Dardanelles straits dreamed up by Winston Churchill in the hope of capturing the Ottoman capital of Constantinople (today’s Istanbul) and breaking the trench deadlock on the Western Front – was a disaster for the British and French, and the mass of Australian and New Zealand troops (the ANZAC forces) fighting with them. They abandoned the beach-heads in January of 1916.
In his book, Torossian recounts the ferocious fighting at Gallipoli and other battles in which he participated – until, towards the end of the Great War, he found his sister among the Armenian refugees on the death convoys to Syria and Palestine. He then turned himself over to the Allied forces, meeting but not liking T.E. Lawrence of Arabia – he called him a mere “paymaster” – and re-entered Turkey with French forces. He eventually travelled to the US where he died.
The gutsy Professor Aktar, however – noticing his colleagues’ unwillingness to acknowledge that Arabs and Armenians fought in the Ottoman Army – decided to publish Terossian’s book in the Turkish language. Initial reviews were favourable until two historians from Sabanci University took exception to Ayhan Aktar’s work. Dr Halil Berktay, for example, wrote 13 newspaper columns in ‘Taraf’ to declare the entire book a fiction and Torossian a liar, a view that came close to what Aktar calls “character assassination”. “It is a ‘trauma document’ of an integrationist Armenian officer who fought in the (first world) war,” Aktar says. "But his family were deported to the Syrian deserts in spite of the fact that Enver Pasha (the Turkish war minister and the most powerful man in the Ottoman hierarchy) had clear orders to the local governors not to deport officers’ families.”
Lower-ranking Armenians in the Ottoman army were disarmed and later massacred amid the genocide, in which women were routinely raped by Turkish soldiers, gendarmerie and their Circassian and Kurdish militias. Churchill referred to the massacres as a “holocaust”. Taner Akcam, the Turkish historian who discovered Torossian’s granddaughter, was stunned by the reaction to the Turkish edition of the book; one critic, he says, even claimed that the Armenian officer did not exist. “This book, along with Aktar’s introduction, pokes a hole in the dominant narrative in Turkey about the Gallipoli war being a war of the Turks. As Aktar shows in his introduction, not only Torossian and other Christians played an important role in Gallipoli, but some of the military units were also composed of Arabs.”
Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu spoke at Gallipoli two years ago and gave a perfectly frank account of how Turkey planned to define the Armenian genocide on its hundredth anniversary. “We are going to make the year of 1915 known the whole world over,” he said, “not as an anniversary of a genocide as some people claimed and slandered (sic), but we shall make it known as a glorious resistance of a nation – in other words, a commemoration of our defence of Gallipoli.”
So Turkish nationalism is supposed to win out over history in a couple of years’ time. Descendants of those who died among the ANZAC troops at Gallipoli, however, might ask their Turkish hosts in 2015 why they do not honour those brave Arabs and Armenians – including Captain Torossian – who fought alongside the Ottoman Empire.
Robert Fisk Posted 12 July 2013
Robert Fisk of the Independent was awarded an Honorary Degree by The Open University in 2004. This article originally appeared in the Independent on Sunday on 12 May and is reproduced here with kind permission of Robert and the Independent.
The views expressed in this post, as in all posts on Society Matters, are the views of the author, not The Open University.
Cartoon by Gary Edwards
The ghost of an Armenian captain threatens Turkey's attempt to subvert the forthcoming 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, writes journalist and honorary OU graduate Robert Fisk. Confronted by the chilling hundredth anniversary of the genocide of one and a half million Armenian men, women and children at the hands of the Ottoman Turks in 1915, Turkey's ...
Steven Primrose-Smith calls himself The UniCyclist as he pedals 31,000 kilometres around 50 European cities while studying for two OU degrees with little more than a solar-powered laptop and a tent. From Belarus he sent Society Matters this exclusive post on dictatorship and democracy.
It's taken for granted that democracy is the most desirable political option available. Although Britain pretends otherwise, it doesn't actually have a democracy. It has representative democracy and this falls a long way short. Ask anyone who voted for the LibDems to scrap tuition fees, only to discover later that they helped push through a threefold fee increase.
A true democracy, where the population has a say on every issue, as in ancient Athens, is now a real possibility. If we combine Estonia's ability to have an e-election with your typical Saturday night X-Factor voting system, it's feasible. But no politician is going to suggest this because, first, it would reduce their own power but, more important, they don't trust us. And with good reason.
The problem is that a lot of us don't know what we're talking about. Even when we do, we vote, as you might expect, for what's in our personal interests rather than what would be best for humankind. Representative democracy gets around the issue of our political ignorance but not our selfishness.
Recently I was in Belarus, famously Europe's last dictatorship, and it occurred to me that there are certain problems coming our way that democracy won't be able to solve but a dictatorship, in theory, could. Let's put aside the fact that Belarus's regime is a brutal and selfish system that looks out for Luckashenko and his cronies and think about what could be achieved if a dictatorship were benign.
In a democracy, the managed decline cannot happen. Imagine a politician saying, “Vote for me! I'm going to make you and all your friends much worse off.” Another party would jump in, pretend the collapse wasn't happening and steal the votes. In a democracy, parties have to keep everyone sweet. In a dictatorship, a single party could force through necessary decisions without the worry of being voted out.
Freedom is very important to me and, if history is any judge, a dictatorship is always more about lining the pockets of those in power than creating a better world. So what is needed is a non-democratic system – one where the current regime cannot be voted out – but where no single party has ultimate power. Impossible?
The current political system in Britain is adversarial. The three main parties fear each other and future upstarts. Each party must always offer an immediate good deal rather than the better option for everyone in the long run. I have a suggestion. The three parties could come together and determine which issues were so important that on these they cannot be divided, such as working towards the best possible managed decline rather than impossible perpetual growth. All other policies, however, would be decided by the party in power. Despite modest gains in local elections by Greens and UKIP, there still seems little alternative to the Big Three, a democratic tyranny (the word 'tyranny' wasn't originally negative) with, yes, less democracy than we currently have but without actually having a dictatorship.
Perhaps we wouldn't notice much difference. Since 1855, no party has ruled Britain other than the Conservatives, Labour or Liberals, or their predecessors. But within this new system, difficult, long term decisions could be made and adhered to with The Big Three working together rather than against each other. An improvement or a dictatorship under a different name?
Steven Primrose-Smith 10 July 2013
The views expressed in this post, as in all posts on Society Matters, are the views of the author, not The Open University.
Cartoon by Gary Edwards
Steven Primrose-Smith calls himself The UniCyclist as he pedals 31,000 kilometres around 50 European cities while studying for two OU degrees with little more than a solar-powered laptop and a tent. From Belarus he sent Society Matters this exclusive post on dictatorship and democracy. It's taken for granted that democracy is the most desirable political option available. Although ...
This is just a short bit of banter about my longing to be wayyyyy brainy!
I could say that theres always been an inner Martin Prince i have wanted to let out, but instead i followed the crowd in school and as a result failed my exams and am now working a 9-5 office job that i have no love for.
In order to motivate me to get out of bed and go to work i have decided to study arts and humanities at the open university as i have always had a creative side and love to question the meaning of life (seriously)..
I fully intend to put 100% into finishing this course with all credits and will seriously be a teachers pet in order to do so..partly as there will be no distractions from fellow students asking if i wanna sneak off for a fag :)
The books will be read twice, the papers will be written thrice and i will make notes till the cows come home.
I beleive in second chances and acheiving anything if you truely want it.. so i am going to push my little brain to the max and pass with flying colours
Howdy all. This is just a short bit of banter about my longing to be wayyyyy brainy! I could say that theres always been an inner Martin Prince i have wanted to let out, but instead i followed the crowd in school and as a result failed my exams and am now working a 9-5 office job that i have no love for. In order to motivate me to get out of bed and go to work i ...
Hell is a subject that has long fascinated artists and writers. It inspired Dante's Inferno, a literary journey through Hell which has fired the imagination of generations from the 14th century down to contemporary thriller writer Dan Brown.
Now research on the Mediterranean island of Crete is throwing new light on how Hell was imagined in the past and how it was used to maintain social order, and to prevent crime and antisocial behaviour.
’The images (…) act as a reminder what happens to bad people – helping to ensure behaviour within the limits of the law, of social parameters and of religion’
“Interestingly, in the Cretan frescoes it is those who have committed sins in their profession – such the dishonest miller or tailor – who are punished the most.
Posted on 3 July 2013.
Hell is a subject that has long fascinated artists and writers. It inspired Dante's Inferno, a literary journey through Hell which has fired the imagination of generations from the 14th century down to contemporary thriller writer Dan Brown. Now research on the Mediterranean island of Crete is throwing new light on how Hell was imagined in the past and how it was used to maintain ...
Academics in arts and humanities disciplines are building on IT developments such as linked open data and uniform resource identifiers to put a huge range of disparate resources within easy reach.
Dr Elton Barker, Open University Lecturer in Classical Studies, describes here how the linked ancient geodata project PELAGIOS is painting a richer picture of the ancient world. Watch this presentation. (The introduction is in German, English begins 3 minutes into the video).
Elton Barker also works on Google Ancient Places.
Archaeologists traditionally make new discoveries by digging in ancient ruins, but tomorrow's Indiana Jones is just as likely to be mining cyberspace. Academics in arts and humanities disciplines are building on IT developments such as linked open data and uniform resource identifiers to put a huge range of disparate resources within easy reach. Dr Elton Barker, Open ...
Can creative writing be taught? Author and ex-OU creative writing student Elizabeth Forbes tackles the oft-asked question in her guest blog on The View From Here website.
Can creative writing be taught? Author and ex-OU creative writing student Elizabeth Forbes tackles the oft-asked question in her guest blog on The View From Here website. 0
Getting your poetry published is notoriously tough, but writer Caroline Davies (pictured) has made the breakthrough with a collection of poems about war. She says the OU’s Advanced creative writing course A363 got her off to a flying start. “After completing A215 in 2006 I put off starting A363, in the mistaken belief that it would involve writing ...
The discovery of horsemeat in ‘beef’ ready meals has shaken consumer confidence in the food industry – but to one Open University historian it all sounds strangely familiar. Dr Rosalind Crone has studied food adulteration in the nineteenth century, and finds some interesting parallels with today. In Victorian times, adding dodgy ingredients to all sorts of ...
I have been getting into trouble entering design competitions again. If you have a spare couple of minutes and you dont mind please could you vote for me.the task this time was to design a thank you card. I appreciate your help
I have been getting into trouble entering design competitions again. If you have a spare couple of minutes and you dont mind please could you vote for me.the task this time was to design a thank you card. I appreciate your help Kind Regards Lucy Wright www.pedlars.co.uk/product-of-the-month-voting
The world of odd book titles is wonderful to behold, writes Dick Skellington.
For every good book title there are some really bad choices out there. The author trade magazine, The Bookseller, holds an annual competition for those titles you wished would go away. You have to wonder why some of these titles were chosen, but some of them may end up as classics of the genre.
Take your pick from the good and the bad. Here are some contenders for the silliest book title of the past two years.
The Great Singapore Penis Panic and the Future of American Hysteria by Scott D. Mendelson. A Taxonomy of Office Chairs by Jonathan Olivares. Testicle Balls in Cooking and Culture by Blandine Vie. Cooking with Poo by Saiyuud Diwong. The Adult Spanking and Discipline Handbook: a Comprehensive Guide to Corporal Punishment by governess Gemma Forbes. Estonian Sock Patterns All Around the World by Aino Praaki. A Century of Sand Dredging in the Bristol Channel: Volume 2: The Welsh Coast by Peter Gosson. And The Erotic Rissole by Tanveer Ahmed.
Cooking with Poo won the previous year. But what would win the 2012 accolade? You might find some clues in past winners to guide your choice. These include The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories, Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers, Highlights in the History of Concrete, Bombproof Your Horse and from 1992, a vintage year it seems, the unforgettable How to Avoid Huge Ships. But perhaps the greatest clue to the 2012 winner, announced on 22 March, can be found in the title of a previous prestigious winner, The Joy of Chickens.
The winner of this year's Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year is Goblinproofing one's chicken coop by Reginald Bakeley. Goblinproofing faced very stiff competition from, among other titles, Was Hitler Ill? by Hans-Joachim Neumann and Henrik Eberle; Lofts of North America by Jerry Gagne; God’s Doodle: The Life and Times of the Penis by Tom Hickman; How Tea Cosies Changed the World by Loani; and How to Sharpen Pencils by David Rees.
Had I been on the panel I think I would have gone for a shortlist of How tea cosies changed the world, How to sharpen pencils, and God's Doodle. But I am sure your choices would be just as inspired. My personal favourite of all the above titles is Estonian Sock Patterns All Around The World.
However, Goblinproofing, which gives valuable advice on how to protect chickens from fairies and banish the fairies from your home, won convincingly with 38 per cent of the judges' votes.
"Books such as A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time all owe a sizeable part of their huge successes to their odd monikers."
Having once written a book which bombed at the bookseller called Minority Group Housing in Bedford, I think he has a point.
Dick Skellington 1 May 2013
The views expressed in this post, as in all posts on Society Matters, are the views of the author, not The Open University.
Cartoons by Gary Edwards and Catherine Pain
The world of odd book titles is wonderful to behold, writes Dick Skellington. There are book titles – take The Communist Manifesto for example – which do exactly what they say on the cover. And there are book titles like Cooking with Poo and Estonian Sock Patterns All Around The World which, however you look at them, seem to exist ...
The programme unearths a treasure trove of maps and stories to reveal the foundations of present-day Ulster, tracing the arrival of Scots and English migrants and the transformation of a wild landscape into a network of towns.
Presented by historian Professor Jerry Brotton, it uses 21st century technology to bring historic maps to life. It analyses social and economic data woven into the fabric of the maps using satellite imagery.
Andrea McCartney, who is a tutor on Advanced creative writing (A363) in Northern Ireland, said: “It’s difficult to imagine the world of 400 years ago. The maps help make that leap. The map-makers are artists.
"They have drawn the timber-framed houses, forests, castles and noted names of the people who lived there; the detail is incredible. They were innovative in their time as satellite mapping technology is today.”
Mapping Ulster is on BBC One Northern Ireland tonight Monday 29 April at 10.35pm, or you can catch it later on BBC iplayer. The programme is part-funded by Northern Ireland Screen's Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund.
Arts tutor Andrea McCartney is the producer and director of a novel TV history documentary, Mapping Ulster, which airs on BBC One Northern Ireland tonight Monday 29 April. The programme unearths a treasure trove of maps and stories to reveal the foundations of present-day Ulster, tracing the arrival of Scots and English migrants and the transformation of a wild landscape into a ...
Tell us about your writing career so far
I have written for as long as I can remember and won a UNESCO medal when I was eighteen in 1979 for a book of poems on the Year of the Child.
I stopped writing when I went to Trinity, University of Dublin, to study English – the academic work on literature that I did for the next ten years silencing the writing side really. I took up writing again seriously in 2001 and took a three-year career break from teaching in that year and did the MA in Creative Writing in Queens.
My main work has always been teaching – English at secondary level and now Creative Writing with the OU also – and in a lot of that time as an English teacher I would see ‘gaps’ in texts – like the sixteen-year gap in the middle of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale – which I’d want to fill with story or narrative. That was one of the first projects I undertook when I started writing – to create a poem-sequence that would account for the lost years of Hermione!
How did Luscus come about?
I’ve worked mainly in poetry so far and now have a manuscript of poems that I hope to find a publisher for. I have just started to consider prose – partly because there is a strong narrative drive in the poems and I have an idea for a novel that I want to try.
The short memoir piece for the Fish is something I’ve wanted to try to write about for some time. I tend to use competitions as deadlines sometimes so that was the idea of this – to give me a date to aim to have a completed piece written by. It was something I knew I’d write at some time and I’d tried it in poetry but it didn’t work. This was my first memoir piece for print though I have written memoir pieces for radio – BBC Radio Ulster and RTE – which may have helped.
What are the rewards of teaching creative writing with the OU?
The thing I like about working with the OU is the close personal contact it affords with students through online teaching. If it works well it is a very intense and personal exchange of ideas and of practice. I love being part of the journey that writing can be for students – sometimes a journey just to finding a way to telling a story that needed to be told, but also when someone discovers a facility or love for a genre that has previously been closed to them – perhaps by negative learning experiences in the past. That often happens with poetry and being able to help in those discoveries and share in that excitement is what makes the work so enjoyable. It also adds to greater self-awareness in my own writing to be doing such close reading of other writers’ work in the course.
The benefits of OU study include the wonderful resources – I think they are exemplary – and the sense of inclusiveness of the institution and its structures of support which are of a different quality than anything I’ve seen in other universities where I studied myself. I think the structure, breadth and the feedback given on A215 is in some ways better than many MA courses since it matches reading, close written feedback and workshopping possibilities.
Why study creative writing?
In my own study the main benefit was in helping to take the writing seriously and to think of yourself as a writer, which is a hard thing to do sometimes. The other great plus is the contact with other writers and the interactions with them – of support and of ideas – that is very important. You need to have some people whose advice you trust and you begin to find that by studying Creative Writing.
I’m delighted to win the Fish. It is especially lovely when you win a prize chosen by a writer whose work you admire and Molly Mc Closkey’s feedback is perhaps the best part of it for me since I thought her memoir Circles Round the Sun was hugely impressive. I think winning it may make attractive the idea of doing more work in prose – in both memoir and fiction.
Any tips for students entering writing competitions?
Find a competition which suits something you already know you have or you want to work on. Make sure the work stands outside of any reference to a competition – that you have a sense of its quality yourself. Follow the rules carefully and avoid gimmicks – present the work carefully so that it is the writing alone that is being judged.
Maureen Boyle is based in Belfast and teaches A215 Creative Writing for the OU in Ireland. Luscus will appear in the 2013 Fish Anthology to be launched at the West Cork Literary Festival in July 2013, at which she is also invited to read.
Posted 29 April 2013
OU Creative Writing tutor Maureen Boyle (pictured) is a winner in the 2013 Fish Short Memoir Contest, with a prize of 1000 euros. Her memoir, Luscus, tells of losing an eye in a childhood accident and of the man who made the succession of eyes that replaced her own as she grew. She talks to Platform about writing, studying writing and entering competitions. Tell us ...
She is currently making a lecture tour of New Zealand, talking about how portraits of female celebrities fuelled celebrity culture in the 18th century. This research led to The First Actresses, a major curated exhibition held at the National Portrait Gallery last year, and an international series of public lectures.
She will also be talking about how the house and home have inspired the work of numerous recent and contemporary artists, from Tracy Emin to Song Dong. Her research in this area is captured in a book, Playing at Home: The House in Contemporary Art due to be published later this year.
Gill Perry (pictured left), who is Professor of Art History at the OU, has chaired several Art History courses, including Modern Art: Practices and Debates (A316) and Art and its Histories (A216).
Find out more
OU Professor Gill Perry is inspiring interest in art history internationally, with her research on gender and the home in art. She is currently making a lecture tour of New Zealand, talking about how portraits of female celebrities fuelled celebrity culture in the 18th century. This research led to The First Actresses, a major curated exhibition held at the National Portrait ...
Philosophy and counselling may sound like unlikely bedfellows, but they have come together in a novel form of therapy called existential counselling.
One of the leading exponents of the British school of existential counselling is Dr Darren Langdridge, head of the OU's department of Psychology. He's just published a new book, Existential Counselling and Psychotherapy.
So what is existential counselling? "It's about bringing together a particular type of philosophy – existentialism – with a particular approach to counselling and psychotherapy," says Darren.
"Existentialism is a practical philosophy which looks at how we can live better lives. In existential counselling we draw on their ideas of how to live well, and apply them to therapy."
One well-known name who was an early exponent of existential therapy was RD Laing, the 'anti-psychiatry psychiatrist'. At a time when people suffering mental distress were being heavily medicated or locked away in mental institutions, Laing argued that therapists should be trying to connect with their patients as fellow human beings.
The key principles for an existential counsellor are: to try and understand how the person you are counselling sees the world, not to impose your world view on them; and to treat them as a unique human being. "We don't treat a person for 'depression'," says Darren. "We see a person who is having a low mood but we don't approach this as though they have a pathology.
"We have a dialogue with our clients. It is very engaged and active. The point about existentialism is that it wants to change the world."
Darren says his book is an introduction to existential counselling and psychotherapy but for those who are already well-informed in the subject, it also pushes the boundaries.
For those not so well informed, there is also an introduction to existential counselling authored by Darren in D240 Exploring fear and sadness, a course which looks at a range of therapies.
Darren has also contributed material to DD307 Social Psychology: critical perspectives on self and others on phenomenological psychology. Phenomenology is a branch of philosophy linked to existentialism, and the phenomenological method is used to understand what the world is like from the point of view of others.
If you want to learn more about how philosophy can inform counselling there's no need to be put off by any unfamiliar philosophical terms. These are all translated into practice in the book and course material on existential counselling, says Darren. "You don't need any background in philosophy to understand them."
Find out more
For those completely new to counselling, the OU offers a 15-point, 12-week introductory course Introduction to counselling (D171).
Philosophy and counselling may sound like unlikely bedfellows, but they have come together in a novel form of therapy called existential counselling. One of the leading exponents of the British school of existential counselling is Dr Darren Langdridge, head of the OU's department of Psychology. He's just published a new book, Existential Counselling and Psychotherapy. So what is ...
The research is investigating whether the brains of people with OCD function differently to those without OCD.
Preliminary findings suggest some systematic and interesting differences between brain activity in people with OCD, and non-OCD controls, even in a relaxed state. However, to obtain a more detailed picture researchers need to find more participants with OCD.
They are looking for people between 18 and 60 years of age, who have been diagnosed with OCD and have no learning disabilities.
If you decide to participate, they will need four hours of your time. The timing of these sessions can be flexible and scheduled according to your convenience.
During this time, your brain activity will be recorded using a safe, non-invasive and painless technique known as Quantitative Electroencephalography, or QEEG. You will also be interviewed and asked to fill in a questionnaire.
The study generally takes place at the OU in Milton Keynes or in Camden in London. Travel costs will be reimbursed. In some cases researchers will be able to come to your town or a town near you to perform the scans and interviews.
By participating in this study, you will be contributing to scientific advancements in OCD research. Additionally, you will gain interesting insights about how your brain may have been affected by OCD.
You can get more information from the QEEG and Brain Research Lab project page. If you wish to take part, or have any enquiries, please contact Loes Koorenhof by calling 01908 659 472, or email email@example.com
The Open University is recruiting people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) to take part in an ongoing research project. The research is investigating whether the brains of people with OCD function differently to those without OCD. Preliminary findings suggest some systematic and interesting differences between brain activity in people with OCD, and ...
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