A Wonderful, Wintery Study Week

ski slopes

What a difference a week makes! Jelly Bean and I are snuggled up like two bugs in a rug watching the snow come down thick and fast outside of our window.  We decided to enjoy a week or so of winter on the farm, nestled in the Laurel highlands, among the highest hills in Pennsylvania.  This is a great place for winter sports, and we do enjoy a frolic in the snow of an afternoon, but Jelly Bean is more an observer of winter than a participant. There is about a foot of new snow on the ground today and a second ‘Polar Vortex’ is expected to drop our temperatures dramatically over the next forty-eight hours. There is nothing like a pot of stew, a cup of tea, and a dozen or so good books on a cold winter’s day.

It has been a wonderful study week for me with enough focus on three courses to feel competent with the material. I felt productive and engaged this week so today I reviewed my process to determine if my updated plan is effective or if there is some other reason for this study breakthrough.  Focusing on a specific theme and texts has been liberating, and the ‘odd-man’ strategy of applying reading from one course to another one helped too.

laurel highlands winterMy ‘odd-man’ unit this week is Victorian Literature. It is the course where I have already done the most reading and writing, so it feels all right to leave it on the edges of my study plan this week. Oddly enough I find studying modern and postmodern texts to be very helpful in my readings of Nineteenth Century ones. It is not to say that modern or postmodern texts are ‘easier’, it is more likely the other way around.  Recognizing literary devices and techniques in texts where they are intentionally foregrounded helps me to recognize and understand them in texts where they are not as obvious, or on the surface of the language.

Reading a selection of texts focusing on a single theme has helped me in three courses. I read three astonishing texts that I can use in two courses. Next week I will read two more that focus on the same theme, but that are part of my Nineteenth Century American Literature syllabus. The theme can be researched in all of my courses, which is a very big help to my organization.

Organizing, reading, and researching this way helped me to reach a point where I can write and discuss competently on this topic. It is a study strategy I will pursue next week too, since it has proven to be so productive.

Another helpful strategy this week has been adding close readings of poetry in shorter study periods. Close readings are very powerful and enjoyable for me. The relationship between form and content helps me better understand a literary period, at least so far.winter laurel highlands

So far, the revised plan is working very well. I wrote an essay on one text almost effortlessly, and feel highly engaged with the topics and materials in all of my courses.  With that good feeling of accomplishment as a motivation and inspiration, it’s time to settle down with some Strauss and Beethoven, my chamomile tea, Jelly Bean of course and a snowy evening filled with Whitman and Dickinson.

Caowrites is studying the BA English by distance learning with the University of London International Programmes. She lives in Pittsburgh in the United States.

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