AA100 – The Arts Past and Present – A review

Since I actually managed to pass AA100, I have been thinking about how I felt this time last year.  This time last year the course materials had just arrived and I was more than a little eager to get started, in fact I wrote my first TMA a few days after the course website opened.

However, here I want to focus on the content of the course, my mistakes and the helpful bits and pieces I picked up along the way.  (Surprisingly, one of my highest results was achieved in the subjects I enjoyed least: Stalin and Poetry.)

The course is split into 4 books; each focusing on a particular theme, i.e. reputations, tradition and dissent, cultural encounters and place and leisure.

Book 1: Reputations

As the first book gives the overall impression of the course it is so important to get this right… and it does.

This first book deals with the question of why certain individuals are famous. I loved studying Cleopatra, Stalin and the Dalai Lama… I even enjoyed reading through Dr Faustus and found the recording particularly useful. I even went as far to go to a performance of an adaptation of Dr Faustus (which produced mixed feelings among my tutor group).

Personally, the chapter on Cezanne was boring, long winded and repetitive, but then I have never enjoyed Art History and it was highly unlikely I would start now.  (But a word to the wise, don’t get too bogged down by the technical terms in the chapter, because there is a far more easy to understand video on the course website.)

This first book was great to get my teeth into and introduce me to the key aspects of studying ‘the arts’ and humanities subjects in general.

Book 2: Tradition and Dissent

Tradition and Dissent provided much food for thought in what is deemed ‘tradition’ and, likewise ‘dissent’.

The chapters within the book focus on a mixed bag of subjects: Plato, Poetry, the English Reformation, the work of Pugin, tradition and Ireland and finally the controversial composer Shostakovich.

The English Reformation and Pugin are the subjects I am more keenly interested in; however, my TMA result for this was the lowest I earned.  Plato, poetry and Shostakovich didn’t even register within my interests.

A few weeks before studying Pugin and the English Reformation, I found this episode of Time Team.  I’m sure almost all Time Team fans will have seen it already but it is helpful to watch.

Book 3: Cultural Encounters

Cultural Encounters starts with two chapters focussed on the art of Benin and its acquisition, treatment and where it rightfully belongs now.  I knew of the art of Benin but never gave it a serious thought before starting this book.  (I found it fascinating and enjoyed every second of the reading and got one of my highest results.)

It continues with philosophy (liberal philosophy and reasons for exemption for cultural minorities); short stories from around the world examining cultural diversity; the transmission of medical knowledge from Ancient Greece to the Arabian world and back to medieval Europe.

However, my favourite area of study within this book was the study of Sophocles’ Antigone, specifically Seamus Heaney’s modern translation of The Burial at Thebes.    I studied this back in 2003 during my days as a BTEC Drama student where I actually played the part of the ‘heroine’ herself.  It definitely helps to understand the story of Antigone prior to beginning this chapter.  I found this site helpful for a brief overview to refresh my memory.

Book 4: Place and Leisure

This book was the subject of the EMA.  Unfortunately for me though, I actually found this book tedious; perhaps, though, I didn’t enjoy it because I knew what was coming.  The areas of study start with a philosophical view of leisure; interpretation of general human environments (from Stonehenge to Milton Keynes); and follow on to Roman Villas and their use.

Finally, there is the mammoth chapter (and case study) of the seaside.  This is a differently styled chapter in that it leaves you responsible for choosing sub-chapters relevant to your chosen EMA question.  I read them all because I had extra time on my hands but looking back now, I wouldn’t do it again.

Overall, I enjoyed studying AA100, but there are areas I wish I could have skipped. I’m moving on to A200 in October and to be honest I can’t wait to move on to my next challenge, despite the fact that Baby #3 is due a week before TMA05 is due to be handed in.