L3 Study Hangout – 20/07/2020

On 20/07/2020 I attended another beneficial L3 study hangout presented by Dr Ariadne Xenou and with quite a few fellow students. Topics of discussion were our Contextual Studies and also issues of authorship.

Firstly, we introduced what stage we are at with our studies on Level 3 so everybody could gain some insight into how others are finding the two modules. It was useful for me to briefly recap where I was with my studies. This was because it reaffirmed in my head how far I had come and what still needed to be done. Also some students were completing Contextual Studies quicker than Body of Work, whereas my Body of Work was drawing to a finish and I am about to submit my draft for the extended written project (Assignment 4). This was interesting because it showed different students have different rates of working and synthesising the theoretical and practical work.

Then Ariadne introduced the main topic for our discussion which was: What makes a good submission for Contextual Studies? We covered all of the important areas making up Contextual Studies. The first topic included expectations for the extended written project and how to use sources effectively to contribute to the thesis.

In terms of the extended written project, Ariadne spoke of two words that assessors are looking for: coherence and cohesion. Coherence means making sure the essay reads well and is clear. Cohesion was more interesting for me as Ariadne spoke of threads linking the cohesion of the essay. These threads included analysis of both images and sources as well as engaging in critical dialogue.

Then, we as a group discussed sources, specifically in the extended written project. There were some minor revelations in the points brought up from this discussion and some regarding sources I was already aware of. I was aware of not stifling my argument by only using sources as a way of reiterating what I am saying. What I wasn’t aware of was that it is also possible to choose to use sources I disagree with and then say why I argue against the points made. In my thesis I can use the sources (whether I agree with them or not) to engage with, developing my points and arguments. Lastly, regarding sources, we discussed images which are not distinct from written sources in terms of the ability to analyse and critically engage with them.

Also we talked about how to compile a research folder while remembering to have research conducted on some of the links/sources that is being referenced in the folder.

Then finally as a closing topic we conversed about The Death of the Author (1967) by Roland Barthes. Ariadne asked us what was Barthes saying in The Death of the Author (1967) and whether we agreed with it. I said I thought The Death of the Author (1967) is about authorship and meaning being not with the ‘author’ but instead the reader. Ariadne and a fellow student introduced the idea that Barthes was against the idea of the ‘genius’ author, originating from Romanticism. We discussed the concept of all work coming from somewhere i.e. all work is not original but part of a web where we are influenced by what is around us and has gone before us. The work communicates the message, not the author and their apparent ‘genius’.

I agree with Barthes in so much as there is often still a notion of the prevailing ‘genius’ in art. This is problematic because the ‘genius’ creates work so original they are credited as the ‘author’. Even if the artist wasn’t deemed a genius, there is still the problem of their work being original. I agree all art comes from somewhere so no art is truly original. Using the word author sounds commanding like they alone created the work. However, I would replace the word author with narrator as this person can in my opinion direct the message the reader can infer from a work of art. This is especially true with a series of works as the voice of the narrator is more apparent with multiple works. In terms of photography, Howells (2011:205) argues ‘Even if we agree with Scruton and accept that a single photograph cannot be much more than a piece of information about its subject-matter, the situation radically changes when we insert that individual photograph in the context of a photographer’s work as a whole.’ I agree with this statement but would also add it is possible for the photographer or narrator to influence the message gained by the reader.

For me this was a great, stimulating way to end the hangout and I certainly got more from discussing The Death of the Author (1967) with the others than I did reading it alone. Overall I am pleased to have attended another L3 study hangout and I feel I learnt a lot both regarding my Contextual Studies and the issue of authorship.


Barthes, R. (1967) The Death of the Author. At: http://www.tbook.constantvzw.org/wp-content/death_authorbarthes.pdf (Accessed 21/07/2020).

Howells, R. (2011) Visual Culture. Cambridge: Polity Press, pp. 183-205.

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