As is so often the case, I open by bemoaning the fact that my writing is not going well. Not that I do not have much to say, that is not the problem, it is matching what I have to say with the dictates of the essay title we have been given. As is also the case, I am heartened by the cries of despair that emanate from the forums which are there, ostensibly, to keep some sense of calm cohesion among the disparate student body of a distance learning community. It doesn't work of course. The forums are much more efficient of whipping up hysteria than allaying it. Still, I gain a perverse sense of well-being from the heartfelt cries of academic desolation, as they tend to show up the triviality of my own sense of mild frustration!
Come hell and/or high weather I will have a rough draft of the first of the three essays that I have to write by the end of the night. Or not. One mustn't set one's expectations too high! It is a sure sign of my exasperation that I have been driven to write notes for the essay! Clearly following (at last) the strict advice that I have given to generations of schoolchildren. Following your own advice! How bizarre is that?
The first essay is a sort of compare-and-contrast – which should, of course, be academic bread and butter to me. And it is, to a certain extent, but it is the little bit 'extra' in the title that is causing all the problems.
We have to account for the differences in the artworks that we are comparing by relating our observations to the way in which they were made. As the artworks are respectively a gilded bronze plaque and a group of three statues, you could well ask what the hell I know about casting and gilding bronze and producing sculpture!
Well, I have to admit, I know a little more about the lost-wax method of casting than is probably natural for someone who is never going to get even remotely near to anyone adopting it (I have, after all, watched the sections of the CDs that we have been given as part of our course) and, as for statues, I always remember reading Michelangelo's supremely unhelpful observation that sculpture was quite easy, all you have to do is chip away the bits of stone that you don't need to allow the figure to emerge. That reminds me of one of my frighteningly intelligent tutors in university who helpfully told us that he always started with the bits of a work of art that he didn't understand. - the exact opposite to what I taught the kids!
But, there again, I didn't have the sort of first at Oxford where the faculty had to stand up and applaud when he went for his viva for his degree! Or was that just a story told us to make us in awe of him? What I do know is that he once slept on the floor of my room in Hall for political reasons that now escape me. And it was because of him that I made my first and only nervous telephone call to The Daily Worker (does that Communist rag still exist?) and delivered a report written by him, down the line, to a journalist! God, I haven't thought about that for umpteen years! And he must now be a professor somewhere or other, or professor emeritus now given the passing of time! I must look him up.
I have and he is. And, what is more I think that I will order some of his books. His High Anglican faith comes as something of a shock, but I am sure that it just as valid as my Anglican Atheism!
All this typing is displacement activity (again) when I should be writing pellucid prose studded with coruscating insights into Renaissance Art. With a capital 'A'!