Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I have made a foolish commitment

In a moment of madness I allowed my darling wife, who knows what buttons to push, to talk me in to beginning an open degree with the Open University. I have begun with something fairly stimulating but straight forward as my first module, "Start writing essays".

My fir, st task is to analyse this question in no more than 350 wordsCompare and contrast the representation of women in two mid-Victorian texts.

I came up with this

The essay question above has three key words, compare, contrast and representation. The most important of these has to be representation. Use of the word representation highlights the understanding that no text is factually definitive, it merely “represents” the author's “view” of the role of women in Victorian times. Each text can only focus on the segment of the female population relevant to it's subject matter and provide a contextual overview of the life of someone within that level of the social strata. Further it must be appreciated that the texts include fiction and poetry, both of which have literary demands, beyond the reportage of fact. These story based requirements can result in details being exaggerated for dramatic effect. It should also be considered that writers of journalistic works and socially aware and philanthropically motivated essayists would likely be writing to emphasise a particular side of a moral debate, reflecting, perhaps the growing Victorian interest in scientific explanations of the the world around us and the workings of society in particular.

This does mean that any effort to compare and contrast is fraught with danger. It was possible then, perhaps even more so than now, to find two very disparate Englands. The birth of the Industrial Age gave some men great wealth and the ability to indulge their philanthropic interests, at the same time as leaving many to live in abject poverty in slums. There is a dichotomy between hard scientific or religious belief on one hand, as demonstrated in the “change or die” nature of social Darwinism, and the almost Socialist philanthropic beliefs of people like William Hesketh Lever, founder of Port Sunlight and “Christian duty” urge to philanthropy among Anglicans, Methodists and non-conformists. Due to this care must be taken not to place to great a reliance on any one text as no writer has any greater veracity than another. Any comparisons drawn,or contrasts made, must be done with due consideration given not only to the work but also to the writer and his social, philanthropic and scientific views, as best they may be known.

Which basically means "each writer has an agenda, either social or literary which has to be taken into account when looking at what they each have to say about the role of women in Mid-Victorian society."

Or to put it another way, after years of training myself to write with direction, purpose and clarity, I now have to learn to waffle.

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