Posts Tagged ‘english lit’

Creative Assignments

I might have mentioned before that on my course we only have exams in first year, and then usually (there are modules that do have exams) it’s 100% coursework. Therefore, we end up with quite a lot of coursework to work through in the year, which might sound scary, but don’t worry, it’s not too bad! I’ve mentioned that one of the fun parts of my course was that we got to go on quite a few trips, but another fun part is the creative assignments we get to do.

In the past I’ve done scrapbooks, written a 3000 word creative article and even created my own Google Map. Recently I had an assignment due where I had to create a number of portfolio pieces, and there was the possibility for a creative element. Seeing as it was for my British Culture in the 1950s module, I decided the best way for me to do mine was by typing out each assignment on my typewriter. I wanted to make it look like a war file, like in the films, so I also bought a plain, brown cardboard folder.

My workspace

My workspace

I typed out all the pieces and also printed a few black-and-white photographs to stick in. It might sound like it took a while to create them all, but the assignment was actually fairly manageable. We had to do six pieces, around 400-600 words each, and one 1000 word essay piece. We were told at the start of the year though, so could do them one-by-one, each week. One of the weeks we also had to do a presentation, and we could use our notes and handouts as a piece. As each week was themed, we could divide up the pieces that way. I’d already typed them up on my laptop in advance, it was the physical typing on the typewriter that took up the majority of my time.

My pieces included a historical research piece, a personal story, a review, the obligatory 1000 word essay, a poem and my presentation notes. The variety was nice, and each piece involved a different element of challenge.

However, I have to say that I spent a lot longer on it than any other assignment I’ve done at uni. It took a very long time to individually type each one out, but really it was fairly enjoyable. It’s nice to get to do something different, especially when it’s an assignment that is worth a fairly large chunk of my final grade.

My typewriter, mid-assignment

My typewriter, mid-assignment

The chance to do a piece of creative writing is also fairly unusual in terms of university English courses. Not many universities offer a creative writing element, and it can be fairly encouraging when you’re assigned one. It breaks up the fairly standard, long essays and I tend to find I put a lot more thought into exactly what I’m writing, how it’s laid out, and what the idea behind it is.

The finished assignment

The finished assignment

Overall, it turned into a bit of a nightmare, I’ll admit. I ended up putting in so much effort, and spending so much time on it that I got very, very stressed. However, as soon as I realised that I was going to get it in on time, and everything was going to be fine, I was genuinely proud with what I’d produced. I had hand-typed every single piece, 16 A4 sheets, and put real effort into its presentation. I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to do these creative pieces, they’ve been really fun but I wasn’t even aware they offered the opportunity when I came to Queen Mary.

One piece of advice I’d offer is that after first year, when you get to begin to choose your modules, ask at the module fair about whether there is the opportunity to do something creative. I wish I’d looked into it more, and it wasn’t until third year that I really began to check what sort of assignments each module offered.

Course Opportunities

I wrote a little before about some of the opportunities my course had offered me. Whether this was visiting The Globe or museums, there have been plenty of opportunities for a different learning experience.

Last week however, my Writing Modern London module offered a pretty unique and exciting opportunity to have our usual two hour seminar replaced with a one hour talk with the author of the reading for that week, where we would get the opportunity to ask her questions about the novel and our course.

At the start of the week I began reading the novel, and found that I could hardly put it down. It was ‘A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers’ by Xiaolu Guo. It had a really interesting and different form as throughout the novel, the narrator is learning English. It starts off fairly broken, but as it goes on it gets more coherent. I really enjoyed it and finished it over the space of about twenty four hours, plus it was a bit different to a lot of the texts we had read.

Normally I don’t purchase a lot of the books on my course. They can be pretty expensive, particularly if we’re reading three novels a week, sometimes four in previous years. I have a lot of friends who get the reading on e-readers as a lot of the texts are free. Usually we get the reading lists far enough in advance to order any key texts, but the library usually stocks most of the reading too. We can also check Senate House library, as we have access to that because we’re part of the University of London. Plus, you can always check charity shops or contacts students selling their books online. In this case though, I wanted to buy the book in case I could get a chance to get it signed.

My signed copy!

My signed copy!

Overall, the talk was really enjoyable. Our seminar leader ran it and aimed most of the questions she asked at topics to do with our course. It was also a really helpful session because we also got to ask questions aimed at our final essays. Xiaolu Guo was so nice, and answered all of them really well. She gave us some really helpful insight and we learned a lot more than we might have done just from our own readings. After the lecture I told her how much I had enjoyed reading the book and how it had made me cry at the end. She was incredibly lovely and signed my copy. Then in the seminar we used some of the things she had talked about to frame our discussions.

It was a really different way of learning and we got to discuss the module in a whole new way. My course has allowed so many of these interesting and unique opportunities and I’m upset the whole thing is nearly over!

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