English Literature Degree and Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe

I finally made a jump and started an English Literature degree with The Open University! It’s long distance learning, so I don’t have to quit my job. Their program is designed for people with life commitments like job or family. It takes 3 years full time to complete this degree, but I’m doing part time – one module per year, so it will take me 6 years.

I’m a few months in, and I’m really impressed with everything so far. I got a box of books and DVDs for my first module (AA100 The Arts Past and Present) and they’re so lovely (pictured below). I’m impressed with their study website and the amount of materials and design they put into it, and I’m impressed with their tutorial organisation. We have 8-9 face to face tutorials (about one each month), and these are offered based on your location. As I reside in London, my tutorials are at Westminster University – the central London campuses. One of the campuses was so close from my office, it took me 10 minutes to walk to my after-work tutorial. It can’t be more convenient!

Each student get assigned to one tutor and one tutorial group (headed by said tutor), which is basically a small group of people of about 15 or so with our own forum. My tutor is fantastic! She called me to say hi at the beginning of the module, before I even got a chance to reply to her email, and she’s just nice and attentive throughout (Granted, I’m one of the lucky ones, as this doesn’t seem to be the case for every single tutor. Mine has gone above and beyond it seems.)

I’m so happy with the OU so far, and hope it goes well all the way through. And I can’t be more excited to finally be able to do an English degree. It’s been my dream all along, but I always thought it as some distant “someday” thing, or a lottery winning scenario. Well, no more! I’ve decided to go for it.

The OU – AA100 text books, DVDs, and assigned books

That’s my short intro to why I’ll probably be reading and posting a lot less from now on, and by reading I mean free reading, as obviously I’ll spend a lot of time reading the assigned text books. The first year or first two modules are actually inter-disciplinary, so I’m studying history, art history, philosophy, religious study, music history, apart from literature. But again I can’t be happier, because I’m absolutely loving everything that’s been handed to me and I’m gleefully absorbing everything like a big sponge. In the past I’ve done plenty of free courses on the internet with various websites like coursera, edx, futurelearn, the great courses, and others, but at the end of the day nothing is on par with degree level learning. They served me in the past but I’ve outgrown them and needed deeper, more structured learning. So though it costs quite a bit, I think this is the best decision I’ve made in years.

Doctor Faustus – Christopher Marlowe (1604)

So Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe came up in the second week of my first module, and I was really happy it did, as I never managed to read a play from the era by myself. As most of you probably know, Christopher Marlowe was Shakespeare’s contemporary. He died young, and that’s probably a big reason why he isn’t as popular today, but Shakespeare is known to respect Marlowe’s works and give nods to them in his own plays.

I’ve tried reading Shakespeare a couple of times and stopped after a page or two. Just couldn’t cope with the language. The edition of Doctor Faustus prescribed by the OU (picture below) is designed for students, so there are plenty of explanation for words, phrases, and context, which were super helpful. My module material also provided a performance recording that we could listen to while reading – highly recommended if you can get it.

Though I have nothing to compare this to, being my first Elizabethan play to read, in my opinion it is a good introduction, as the story is quite simple. Doctor Faustus was tempted by the devil (and he succumbed) to gain ‘unnatural’ powers on earth by promising to give his soul at the end of 24 years. I was almost surprised by how the good and evil concepts were so in your face, which surely is less relatable to modern audience of today. But this play is clearly a product of its time, when morality plays were popular. These days we like characters and stories that are much less black and white, with a lot of greys in between, don’t we?

Reading this, I felt like I got a glimpse too of why Marlowe wasn’t as mainstream as Shakespeare. I mean, the devil? Lucifer? Damning people to hell? He also poked fun at the Pope and Roman Catholic in this play. Then there’s the personal story about him being a spy, and the gruesome death (stabbed in the eye) and the unclear facts of why he was murdered. Compare that with the love stories and comedy of Shakespeare. In any way, I will have to read more plays from this era to form a better opinion, so am hoping to do so, albeit slowly.

Mee’s rating: 3.5/5

Christopher Marlowe
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3 thoughts on “English Literature Degree and Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe”

  1. This sounds like a really great move! And to do an English Literature degree, too! What guts!

    Sounds like you’ll really enjoy this. All the best!

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