(Compiled of extracts from the overviews I wrote for each week’s lecture)
I loved every session of constellation. I chose Cath Davies’ 5 week intense course Goddesses and Monsters and luckily got my first choice. I was drawn to this course firstly because I have thoroughly enjoyed every lecture I have received from Cath in my time at Cardiff Met so far, and her lectures are always incredibly thought-provoking, compelling and enjoyable. I was also drawn to this course after reading the module overview and hearing head of level 5 constellation Martyn Woodward discuss it briefly at the introductory lecture for constellation this year. Last year, I struggled with many of the concepts in my constellation modules and as quite a visual and literal thinker and doer it was quite difficult to wrap my head around some of the theories being presented, many of which seemed too far fetched and pointless for me. Goddesses and Monsters is right up my street. The discussions of femininity and materiality, female sexuality and sexualisation, corporeality and feminine ideals, sex and gender stereotypes vs reality sparked my interest for all five hours and I was looking forward to next weeks lecture.
A tool we used throughout the course was ‘Cath’s Columns’; a way of analysing an image so to understand the connotations of what can be seen and the way in which these link to existing theories. We were given many images and asked to describe exactly what we could see. At times, this is the part that I find the most difficult, as previous to university I studied Fine Art, and was constantly being asked to find the meaning behind what could be seen, jumping straight to the connotations. My mind jumps straight to the second column, coming up with ideas of meanings for what I can literally see before I have had chance to process what it is that I can see. For me, this is why it is easier to write down what is in the image before analysing it further. I can then link what can be seen to the connotations, thinking about textures, materials, colours, expressions, body language and positioning of the body and objects. Finally, I link what I can see to existing theories delivered in the lecture in order to provide evidence for the image being the way it is, to prove that the image is successful in what it is trying to achieve. This process makes essay writing considerably easier, as after creating all three columns, I have to just write up what I have written into prose. When writing my essay, I found the third column the most difficult. I knew the connotations of things I could see in the image, but finding the theories to prove this was difficult at times. I still don’t feel that I have completely got the hang of referencing, and the thought of it terrifies me. The thought of doing it wrong, terrifies me more. For each theory I used, I made sure I had the correct (at least I hope) in text and bibliography reference before continuing with my analysis, so not to get deep into a paragraph and then have to remove it when I cannot find the reference for the quote used. This happened with a few of my theories, though there was so much to write about that it didn’t matter too much. Upon researching for my essay I was particularly interested in Freudian theories of castration fear, as well as Creed’s theories of the female/male monster. I loved analysing the appearance of Harley Quinn for my essay as there was so much to write about. My favourite area to write about was her choice of t-shirt, and theories relating to a father figure, most of which I took from Cath’s lectures and some which I found myself. ‘Cath’s Columns’ has given me the tools to be able to critically analyse not only the work of others, but my own work, to understand what my work is saying to those who observe it.
I would love to write about an aspect of Goddesses and Monsters for my dissertation and I feel lucky to have been able to take part in this study group. It broadened my perspective of popular culture, gender roles, materials and textures and so much more; I just wish it had gone on for more weeks. I enjoyed studying the psychological elements, and I think concepts in psychology is something I will take forward to my dissertation. This study group has laid foundations for dissertation essay writing and has provided me with a myriad of ideas for what I can choose to study. Ideas and theories from Cath’s lectures have been reflected in almost every element of life since finishing the study group. The were always there of course, but I have now become so aware of them. From things on the television, in music, in conversation, films, lectures, graphic design, everything is related to what I have studied in constellation, and for this reason I feel it has been a massive success. I cannot speak highly enough of constellation this year, as I have loved the lectures, the research, the essay writing, and the depth it has added to my practise. Goddesses and Monsters has made me consider further what kind of work I want to put out into the world as a graphic communicator, and what I want my work to say. Graphic communication can be used to educate and inform, and I am considering further the kind of messages I want to educate and inform about.
At the end of every lecture, there was a section of my notes made up just of questions I had compiled through the lecture – left unanswered after the five hours but giving us something to consider in the week between that lecture and the next. I was able to conduct my own research and delve further into the topics we studied, always exploring deeper concepts and connecting the dots between one module and another, constellation weaving through everything I do in university and also through life.