Saturday, November 09, 2019

Captain Cook agrégation 2020 option civilisation post 28 .

This website https://www.bl.uk/the-voyages-of-captain-james-cook/articles

Is on the British Library website, and gives you plenty of reading matter, from a number of points of view.

L3 Visual Art in Britain since 1945

You will find here the recording of the first class on visual art.

Keywords: lecture, podcast, visual art, United Kingdom,  Lowry, Emin, Moore, Hepworth, Bacon, Freud

M1 Writing the history of the First World War: introduction to historiography

You will find here (in PDF) an example of a historical article on the cultural history of the First World War. Not the sources, the corpus, the questions, the assumptions, the objectives, the methods etc.

Just click here

You will find here the recording of the first seminar on writing the history of the First World War - useful for revision purposes.

Just click here

The accompanying slides are here.

M1 MEEF Some British scientists

Isaac Newton Charles Darwin Caroline Herschel Mary Anning Francis Crick Rosalind Franklin Stephen Hawking.

The slides are here

And the MP3 podcast of the class is here

Friday, November 08, 2019

MEEF Revising British history

One of my colleagues has put online  a list of podcasts which might be useful to revise your British history and civilization (although you can also scroll back months and years on this blog to listen to past classes on different centuries which I have given).

Dr Brailowsky's list is here


Suggested translation: passage from Ikor

The passage translated here can be found in the booklet at September 4th in this blog. This translation will stay online only for a couple of weeks.

keywords thème anglais, niveau avancé, agrégation, exercice


One day the old lady forgot[2] to give the child her lunch ; another time, when she had gone out with her for a little walk, she walked past the house without recognizing it ; then, as Sylvia was tugging at her sleeve, she laughed very loudly, making as if she had pulled off a joke. But the child was not taken in. Then there were odd bursts[3] of affection. Suddenly, without warning, her grandmother would[4] catch hold of her, smother her in a hug, cover the little girl with kisses and then push her away[5] almost brutally. Sylvia, who was a very sensible[6] little girl, dared[7] not admit that she had sometimes been really scared, because you would[8] have to be very silly to be scared of granny, would you not ?[9] But she carried around an unvoiced[10] sense of worry. Apart from this, the old lady was just as alert and lively on a normal day ; people who did not know her well were forever enthusing[11] about how young she seemed…

Ludovic did not seem excessively[12] surprised. In fact, as Germaine had to admit[13], he had been worried for a long time, and she was the one who was refusing to look at reality. She wondered for a moment to what extent his hunger for travel was not partly due to a feeling that they had to hurry to make the most of the old lady’s looking after the child[14] while she was still able. It was a hateful thing to think. Germaine blushed and pushed the thought out of her mind, but this kind of suspicion is not so easily to get rid of.

“If you’re still determined to go off travelling,” she said, in a sharper voice than she had intended, “You’ll have to go on your own. I won’t be able to leave Sylvia with your mother any more, not even[15] for a day. I would be too worried”.

“Yes, of course.” Said Ludovic, without thinking.

What must he be thinking of, right then? The Verschoop family would love to have Sylvia stay if needed, they were forever blaring on about it[16]. If that was what he had in mind so as to cling on to his precious travelling, well then … Germaine was seething with indignation at the prospect. Even more so because that would mean leaving his mother with the Verschoops as well! Really! The sheer selfishness of this man, this spoilt child, was beyond the pale. He couldn’t…

“I was just thinking” interrupted Ludovic all of a sudden, “how we could talk Mother into seeing[17] a doctor.” [18]

[2] Remember the rules for anteriority are different in English and in French.
[3] There is nothing you can do with the word « crisis » here.
[4] “Would » is definitely the best option here.
[5] “Away » and not « back » because it is not a matter of returning to a previous position.
[6] Or « level-headed », but certainly not « reasonable ».
[7] You cans say « dared not admit » or « did not dare to admit ». In some contexts these are quite different, but here either is acceptable.
[8] Someone tried with DO reinforcement (You do have to be silly…) but DO does not give the right sort of reinforcement.
[9] Because in this sentence we can, I think, hear the inner voice of the little girl, a contraction might be, very very very exceptionally, acceptable (did you catch that this was exceptional ?). Be careful of word order with « would it not ?».
[10] Or « unspoken »
[11] Or « marvelled » (two l s in British English, only one in American).
[12] « All that suprised » is probably too informal in register.
[13] Or “had to give him credit for that ».
[14] Or « the old lady’s help ».
[15] Here we are in an everyday dialogue, so structures with « be it » or similar are too literary in style.
[16] A structure with « shouting from the rooftops » is good, too.
[17] « Undergo a medical examination » is not the appropriate register.
[18] Someone tried « health assessment » but that is far too administrative in style.

Agrégation : cours restitution mardi matin

Le cours de M Morel sera en A409.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

The Shock of the New

For L3, or indeed anyone who is interested. I don't know how much you all learned in school or at home about modern art and the history of modern art, but this TV series from 20 years or so ago is a very accessible introduction to the subject. Here is episode one

Captain Cook agrégation anglais 2020 option civilisation post 27: Controversy in New Zealand

Captain Cook is in the news, as a replica of his original ship tours New Zealand exactly 250 years after his first visit there.

This short news video shows people who are pleased with the commemoration, and others who are protesting against it, partly because of the people who were killed when Cook first arrived. This video also allows you to hear splendid New Zealand accents.


Notes for MEEF M1 students

First of all an administrative question. I have been informed that next week on the 13th , some of you have to go to a lecture at the ESPE. Because of this, the British civilisation class will last only one hour - from 5.30pm to 6.30pm. If you are also in my First World War seminar, I am afraid that this will go ahead without you, and you will have to find out, from my MP3 recording on the blog for example, what was said.

Secondly, I will be preparing your homework assignement and you will have all the information about it over the next week or so.

Thirdly, I was rather concerned that many of you do not know key dates in British history (in particular in connection with immigration). The 12 or so dates in the PowerPoint I showed you a few weeks are the absolute minimum, on this issue, which you need to know. Make some lists of dates and learn them!

Monday, November 04, 2019

Agrégation externe rapport

Le rapport du jury de l'agrégation externe d'anglais vient de paraître. Vous pouvez le trouver sur le site de la SAES


Most of the comments, and in particular the essay on the text commentary, will be also very useful indeed for those who are only taking the agrégation interne.

Thème class Wednesday morning

Since I understand you have an even more dense timetable this week than usual, we will finish my class on Wednesday 15 minutes earlier, just to allow you to breathe.

Captain Cook agrégation anglais 2020 option civilisation post 27

If you are on Facebook why not follow or join the Captain Cook society page?


L3 popular culture - theory part two

You will find here the recording of the second class on the theory of popular culture, including a discussion of some of the ideas of Bourdieu, Williams and Hebdige.

And you will find the slides here.

These  are complex ideas, and listening to the class again is probably a good idea. If there is anyone out there thinking of doing a master's dissertation (research or MEEF) on some aspect of popular culture, they would particularly need to understand this stuff.


L'UTLC (Université de toutes les cultures) accueillera le mardi 12 novembre à 18h Sylvie Octobre pour une conférence intitulée "Les transformations des rapports à la culture des jeunes".
Sylvie Octobre est sociologue, chargée d’études au Département des études, de la prospective et des statistiques du ministère de la Culture.

La conférence se déroulera à la Maison de l'Université. Entrée libre et gratuite.

L3 Popular Culture the rest of the semester

As we begin  this week looking at visual art in Britain since 1945, watch this short video which I will refer to in class.

(Just click here)

Here is what will probably be the programme for the rest of the semester:

5 nov visual art 1
12 nov visual art 2
19 nov music 1
26 nov music 2
6 décembre music 3
10 décembre: Devoir sur table.

17 décembre: summing up and indispensable information for the January exam.

Note on the classroom test 10 décembre. The subject will be either a short text commentary or an essay (une mini-dissertation en fait). You have only 90 minutes.
Because of the large number of people in the two L3 groups I am teaching, there are always one or two people who are absent at the classroom test, for good reasons. The only solution if you are absent for whatever reason, is to take the second session exam in June.

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Thème agrégation

It is a good time to revise those structures where one person is involved in another person's action. Make sure you have grasped the difference between these random sentences.

Her boss made her have her hair cut.
Her boss had her have her hair cut.
Her boss got her to have her hair cut.

Some of the following are more likely than others:
I'll have my secretary phone them.
I'll make my secretary phone them.
I'll get my secretary to phone them.

He had his team have the flat repapered...

Suggested translation - passage from Aubry

The passage we were working from can be found on this blog in the entry for September 4th. This translation will only stay online for a couple of weeks.

Extract from “Personne” by Gwenaëlle Aubry, 2009

"As you know, I was born to a human father and mother. Neither they nor my sisters, then, have four legs, the head of a beast[1] or red eyes. Nor do my children. As for me, I also have a human appearance, if perhaps a little dark. I like grass but I do not graze on it, and I live in a one-bedroom flat[2] looking out on the trees, in Montmartre, at the foot of the Sacré Coeur. It is here that I am becoming conscious once more of how my life has turned out. Some things in it certainly escaped[3] me entirely, since I was not looking for them."
The[4] lines I have set out here are the first lines of a piece[5] called ‘The blues of the black sheep’. It counts almost two hundred pages written out in careful handwriting, with corrections and annotations from beginning to end. On the blue folder containing these pages, my father has written ‘to be novelized’.[6] He intended this to be read by other people – my sister and me,[7] to begin with.[8] He spent the last months of his life writing it, in the small flat we had set up[9] for him. He had a white, well-lit,[10] room on the ground floor of a modern building, which one arrived at through a passageway with a right angled bend,[11] at the other end of which was a kitchen, a bathroom and a wardrobe, and the back of which was entirely taken up with a bay window[12] looking out onto[13] [14]a tree-lined avenue. In this space, as in some hotel rooms, there was something impersonal and comforting.[15] As soon as we saw it, we knew that he would like being there, that fear would not reach him there. We filled it with   furniture and ornaments salvaged[16] from the auction[17] at Drouot’s. There was  a large bookcase holding his law books and boxes full of his papers, a couch and a desk, some worn carpets and an Empire console table. Then there were my grandfather’s paintings, a black-and-white photograph   showing the manor house in Britanny at Saint méloir des ondes. All these were relics of a dynasty of high up people[18] which would rebuild around the old man the scenery of a respectable, cushioned,[19] [20] life, lived at a leisurely pace. The psychiatrists allowed him to leave the clinic he had been interned in for a year. He would be able to begin living again. It was in this very room that he died, nine months later.

 Un console Empire

 Une Malouinière

[1] The context reminds us that it is not a matter of having « a silly head ».
[2] Note that « a bedsit » is normally a bedroom in a house which sports shared bathroom and kitchen facilities outside the bedsit. These are far less common in Paris than in London, and, in addition, a « studio » in Montmartre would probably be expensive and not have shared facilities. As we see below, this is not a « one-room flat ».
[3] Somebody tried « slipped my memory », but this is not the meaning here. « Eluded » is good – a literary word.
[4]  A structure with « These » is possible ; « those » is not correct.
[5] « Text » is not appropriate.
[6] Someone found « to be fictionalized », which is very good. « To romanticize » is something quite different, connected with love.
[7] « My sister and I » would be a grammatical error of a particular type , an example of hyper-correction. In this style, I think it is best avoided. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypercorrection
[8] « For a start » is rather informal.
[9] Or « we had furnished ». « We had done up » is not bad, but may be too informal. « We had fixed up » is fine.
[10] This is far and away the best translation here.
[11] Someone tried «  an L shaped hallway » which is very good.
[12] « Patio door » sounded a little modern, but is probably correct. Note that you can walk out of a patio door, and not of a bay window.
[13] Note this is spelt as one word.
[14] A structure with « with a view on » is also good.
[15] Someone tried « characterless and soothing », which I thought was good.
[16] Or « saved », or « left over ».
[17] As all millionaires know, Drouot is an auction house for very expensive items. https://www.drouot.com/lot/publicShow/8796198
[18] Or « dignitaries » or « public figures ».
[19] I liked « hushed ».
[20] Or « slow-moving ».

Monday, October 28, 2019


If you are at home and you have OCS, fabulous film about Gandhi right now.

M1 MEEF - the rest of the semester

In the next class I will be talking about some British scientists, since science is on the programme. If I have time, I will look at how to tackle the other two dossiers in the booklet I gave you. Otherwise I will do this in the following class. So 1) Please bring the booklet to class and 2) prepare these subjects with the help of the internet, so that you can compare the suggestions I give with what you found by yourself.  The class will be much less useful if you have not prepared.

Fairly soon, I will give you (here on this blog) your assignments, which count for 50% of the semester's mark (for M1). You will have one month to complete them, and you will send the resulting work to me by email (no handwritten work, please).


Do you use contractions when you translate literary English?  No.
What do you do with contractions when you have translated into literary English? You do not use them.
Is there anything you do not use, when translating into literary English? Yes, there is : contractions.

(This is inspired from my dear departed French teacher, Joe Carrington,  who used to say the same thing, mutatis mutandis, to dissuade us from pronouncing consonants at the ends of words in French).

Cook and the birds

When Cook and his men got to Australia, they were impressed with the https://www.theguardian.com/environment/ng-interactive/2019/oct/27/australian-bird-of-the-year-2019-vote-for-your-favourite

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Friday, October 25, 2019

Ten British scientists - MEEF

Scientific innovation is on the programme - here is a very short video about ten British scientists who changed the world!


Thursday, October 24, 2019

Brexit : saison deux. Séminaire Eriac 22 octobre 2019

Vous trouverez ici l'enregistrement MP3 de mon intervention lors du séminaire Eriac du 22 octobre.

Et vous pouvez cliquer sur ce lien pour télécharger le PowerPoint qui illustrait mes propos.

Mots clé: Brexit, séminaire, Johnson, Corbyn, podcast universitaire, partis politiques, identités, 2019, politique britannique

Monday, October 21, 2019

Understanding Brexit and the long-term trends involved

If you are on Academia (and it is free to join),  you can find a few previous talks I gave about Brexit.


You will also find here a class I gave last October on the question.


The talk I am giving tomorrow will end up on this blog in a week or two.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Agrégation: conférence sur Howard's End

Changement de salle
La conférence de Catherine Bernard sur Howards End aura lieu ce jeudi 24 octobre, de 10 h à 12h, en L206.

Friday, October 18, 2019

L3 popular culture : British cinema

We will be looking at the history of British cinema in a few weeks' time, but this article about Ken Loach's films just came out today. The style is rather annoying and supercilious, but still.


Contractions? No!
Si ce que vous traduisez n'est pas entre guillemets, faisant partie d'un dialogue, et le texte ne contient pas le mot "wesh" en français, ne mettez pas des contractions en anglais.

Thème M2/agrégation suggested translation passage from Martin du Gard

The booklet including the passage translated here can be found on this blog on September 4th. This suggested translation will only remain online for two weeks.

What appears to be happening here is that the daughter is extremely ill and may die,[1] but the mother does not know where her husband is. The story takes place around 1904, so we need to be careful not to introduce anachronisms.

Madame[2] de Fontanin went back to her home. Jenny was in bed, sleeping fitfully.[3] She raised[4] her feverish face, gave her mother an inquiring[5] look and closed her eyes again. 'Take Puce[6] away. The noise is hurting me [7]'.(*) Madame de Fontanin went back to her room and, suddenly feeling dizzy, sat down without even taking off her gloves. Was she going down with a fever  too? She must[8] stay calm, be strong, be confident. She bowed her head in prayer and then stood up purposefully. She had to contact her husband and get him to return.[9] She crossed the hallway,[10] paused[11] in front of a closed door, and then opened it. The room was cool and did not seem lived in.  The sharp smell of verbena and lemongrass, and a lingering odour of perfume emanated from it.  She drew back the curtains. There was a desk in the middle of the room. A fine layer of dust covered the blotter, but there were no papers around, no addresses, no clues at all. The keys of the furniture were in their locks. The occupant was quite trusting. She pulled open the desk drawer and revealed[12] a pile of letters, some photographs, a fan, and, rolled up in a corner, an ordinary black silk floss glove.[13] Her hand suddenly stiffened on the edge of the table. A memory struck her.[14] Her attention wandered and she stared into the distance… One summer[15] evening, two years previously,[16] as she was in a tram[17] travelling alongside the river, she thought she saw, and she sat up[18] and recognized Jérome, her husband.[19] He was sitting beside a woman, even leaning over a young woman on a bench, who was crying! And her cruel imagination, working on that fleeting perception, had many times taken pleasure in rearranging all the details – she saw again the woman’s vulgar grief, her hat slipping down[20] as she quickly pulled a coarse white handkerchief[21] from her petticoat, and above all, how Jérôme had kept his composure.[22] Oh, how certain[23] she felt that she had guessed from his attitude all the feelings that had beset him that evening. He showed[24] a measure of sympathy, of course, because she knew he was weak and easily moved, some irritation too at being the centre of such a scandalous incident in the street, and lastly, a part of callousness![25] Yes, he did! In his posture, half-leaning over but quite collected, she was sure she had seen the selfish calculations of the lover who has had enough, and who, already no doubt attracted by other fancies, has decided, despite a feeling of pity and secret shame, to make a complete break.

(*) Note that this is British punctuation. American punctuation would use double inverted commas, and would put the full stop after 'hurting me' inside the inverted commas, not outside. See https://www.thepunctuationguide.com/british-versus-american-style.html 

[1] She recovers later in the novel.
[2] It is not a very important point, but we normally would not translate as « Mrs de Fontanin ». « Mdame » is transparent to anglophone readers, and allows to maintain a French colour in the passage.
[3] Someone tried “to doze off », but that is to *begin* to sleep. « She was drowsing » is extremely rare, but apparently correct.
[4] If you’re not certain,this is a good time to revise the differences between the verbs to raise, to rise and to arise. Not to be confused with the differences between the nouns rise and raise.
[5] Or a questioning look.
[6] Better not to translate proper names of animate beings.
[7] Someone was tempted by « pains me », but, oddly, this (literary) expression is only used for emotional pain. E. g. « It pains me to see that you neglected to take my feelings into account ».
[8] A translation like “Stay calm” would be confused with an imperative. “had to” is possible, but, given the inner voice involved, “must” is better. One cannot translate with “To stay calm” etc.
[9] You must avoid all translations which would make the reader think there are telephones centrally involved here.
[10] « Corridor » is not so good, since it normally refers to a passageway in a larger building – a hospital corridor, a school corridor etc.
[11] Someone was tempted with « got hesitant ». There are two problems with this. Firstly, adjectives used after « to get » are a restricted list – you may not use the verb with any adjective. Secondly expressions with « get » will often not be sufficiently literary for passages like this one.
[12] As often, it is much better to add a verb here.
[14] Nothing can be done with the verb « to reminisce » here.
[15] Note: no capital letter.
[16] This is a more formal register than « earlier », thus is better here. « Before » is no doubt not formal enough in register. « Ago » is not possible because it would mean two years before today, not two years before the moment of the main narrative (deixis problem then).
[18] Note that she did not stand up.
[19] There are advantages to dividing the sentence when translating, not least that the procedure adds a verb.
[20] Words like « capsize » or « topple » are too spectacular, really.
[21] Not a « tissue » which is made ofpaper and is anachronistic here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facial_tissue
[22] Notice there are more verbs in a good English translation of this section than in the original French.
[23] Better than « sure » because more formal in register.
[24] A structure with “must have » is possible, but not with « might have ».
[25] “Callousness » is better than « cruelty » since it is less used to designate a permanent part of one’s personality, and more for a particular attitude or action.