Taking your first steps into higher education
Taking your first steps into higher education

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Taking your first steps into higher education

Week 2: Introducing the arts and humanities through literature


In the following video, Weeks 2 and 3 author, John Butcher introduces this week’s study. While watching, think about your experience of studying poetry at school, and of any preconceptions you may bring with you.

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John Butcher – Author
Hi again, and as we embark on our studies in the arts and humanities it’s inevitable really that we might end up in an academic library. And for the study of poetry, that’s really important really, because we need to have access to some volumes, perhaps of contemporary poetry, or indeed of some older poetry. For example one of the poets we’ll be using during our course is Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who we've got there, and also we need to have access perhaps to some critical studies of poetry, looking at interpretation and some biographical studies of poets as well.
And one of the things we might do is feel slightly awestruck when we think about some of the poetry through history – just plucked here Keats’ poetical works, not a thin volume as you can see, and a set of poetry that he produced before sadly dying at the age of just 25. But we shouldn’t be in awe of this, and in many ways the important thing about this course is to recognise that there can be examples of poetry found all around us. So not just in academic libraries, but let’s try and imagine, let’s say it’s early February and we’re wandering around a greetings card shop or a supermarket, looking for that Valentine’s Day card, and perhaps we come across a Purple Ronnie, and I’d just like to give you a little bit of a poem now to illustrate the point I'm making. So, for example, Millionaire Poem:
If I had a million pounds
I know what I would do
I'd buy some extra special times
And spend them all with you.
Now I admit I'm slightly moved by that, and that kind of effect is important in literature, and we've also even there got some examples of poetic techniques. There’s a rhyme there that’s quite easy to spot. There’s something much more complex, an example of hyperbole, a very exaggerated twist in the end there. But I think the important thing is to recognise, as my daughter keeps reminding me, that poetry is all around us. She particularly favours the lyrics from popular music. One of her particular favourites a couplet from the Arctic Monkeys:
And her lips are like the galaxy’s edge
And her kiss the colour of a constellation falling into place.
So even there we've got strong imagery, we've got a simile, a metaphor, and the point really is that poetry is all around us. It’s prevalent in our lives, and I think it’s really important that we understand better how poetry affects us in the way it does.
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You will now focus on what it’s like to learn in academic subjects that might broadly fit under the description of arts and humanities. If you already think you know you might choose to study in a different area from the arts and humanities, these two weeks will provide an interesting insight into some of the key academic skills vital to success across the disciplines – and we believe, from experience, it is worth knowing what the prevailing approaches to study in the arts are: all students might learn something new.

This week you will:

  • identify the higher education subjects grouped as arts/humanities
  • use personal response and critical reading as learning approaches in the arts
  • discover a range of poetic techniques – rhyme, repetition, surprising language (e.g. imagery using metaphors and similes)
  • explore some of the elements found in the sonnet form
  • apply the study diamond to analyse effects, techniques, context and meaning in in poetry
  • develop your study skills.

Remember that you will need your notebook to hand to record your response to the activities in this week of the course.

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