Monday, March 01, 2021

James Cook - the century and the power that produced him

 You will find here

The MP3 recording of the second live class, which looked at the eighteenth century, the society and the power which produced Cook.


The slides we looked at are here


I know most people are concentrating on other subjects in this last week before exams, and so i will wait a little before I put more Cook videos up on the Youtube Channel.

For the moment, the first two Cook videos are up there :

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Suggested translation - Merle



“We’ve got to stop this, it’s stupid.”

I completely agreed, but to stop it, I needed my whistle (well, Peyssou’s whistle), so I searched, perspiration running down my forehead, in all my pockets, without managing to find it. As I searched, I realized, even through all that anxiety,  how ridiculous I was. The commander-in-chief[1] could no longer command his troops, since he had mislaid his whistle.

I could have shouted out “Hold your fire!” Even Miette and Catie in the fort at the entrance would have heard me. But I did not do this: I do not know why, but at that moment it seemed very important to me that things be done according to regulations.

I finally found this precious talisman. There was nothing surprising; it was where I had left it, in my shirt pocket.[2] I blew three short blasts[3], and these, when I repeated them a few seconds later, managed to silence our guns. Yet my whistle must have[4] awakened some echo in the military soul of Vilmain, since, from the rampart I was crouched behind, I heard him screaming at his men, “What are you firing at, you bunch of cretins?[5]

On that, on both sides, silence replaced the outburst.  To say deathly silence would be overstating the case, since no one had been shot.[6]   This first part of the combat ended in farce and immobility. We did not feel a need to leave Malevil in search of the enemy, and the enemy had no desire to  come forward to meet our bullets, by moving into a breach of only four or five feet wide.

I did not see what happened next; it was the outside commando that recounted it to me. Hervé and Maurice were desperate. There had been a mistake in positioning the blockhouse.  It allowed a clear view on people coming on the Malevil road if they were upright. But as soon as they lay down (and they did), they were invisible: the grassy ridge of the path hid them completely.

Because of this, Hervé and Maurice could not shoot.  What was more, even supposing an enemy were to stand up, they did not know if they should shoot or not, since Colin’s gun remained silent.






[1] Capital letters (two of them) are possible but not obligatory.

[2] In the breast pocket of my shirt : but then again, where else do shirts have pockets ? Still, if you knew the expression « breast pocket » it is no doubt best to use it.

[3] As often, this reminds me of a popular song (from the 1940s). « I blew a little blast on my whistle » by George Formby Senior. You can listen to it here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeXMexIAroo

[4] If you were tempted by any translation other than « must have », you must urgently read again the modal verbs section of your Grammaire Explicative de l’Anglais.

[5] Jerks, bloody idiots, etc.

[6] I’m fairly confident that, strictly speaking, « deathly »  is correct (resembling death) and « deadly » is not (liable to cause death). However the British national coprus shows that people do use both.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

M2 Seminar 1970s. Final elements


You will find here the final video chapter in the series on Social and Cultural Changes in the 1970s in the UK.

Just click here.



And you will find here an article « Aspects of Popular Culture in the 1970s », which originally appeared as a chapter in a book.



If you have questions about the assignment, send me an email.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Agreg interne

Commentaire de civilisation


You may need to look over these posts on commenting « textes de civilisation », which concentrate in particular in how such exercises are completely different from literary commentaries


John Mullen, Université de Rouen - Teaching blog: L3 DST popular culture (johncmullen.blogspot.com)


John Mullen, Université de Rouen - Teaching blog: L3 British civilization commentaire de texte (johncmullen.blogspot.com)


Reminder :

The questions you always need to ask yourself for each document, before you begin to write your commentary, are the following.


WHO? (is expressing themselves)

TO WHOM? (are they trying to communicate)

WHEN? (What is important about the fact that it was at this time and not another?)

WHAT? (is the essential content of the document? Also, what do they NOT say which we might expect them to say?)

WHY? (are they saying all this: what is their objective?)

HOW? (do they try to reach their objective? Irony? Mockery? Rhetorical devices?)

WHAT HAPPENED AFTER? (If the document promises, or predicts or warns, did these elements come true?)

HOW TYPICAL IS THE DOCUMENT? (Is it an innovative declaration of a new movement, or one more cliché from that time period, or what?)

WHAT DIFFERENCE DID IT MAKE? (Where does the document fit in to longer historical processes?)


In any exercise you are unlikely to find something to say on every one of the above questions for each document, but the list gives you an idea of where you should be looking.


Reminder : 

 Analysis of vocabulary/ style/ lexical fields. These can occasionally be useful to help explain the objective of a document and how that objective is attained. However, listing words used without saying why this is useful is a mistake. I should say that at least 80% of the time, when I see the expression « lexical field » in a commentary on a civilisation document, it is not good.


Journalistic English often makes a paragraph with just one sentence. In a university essay, this is not sufficient - a paragraph should have at the very minimum three sentences. On the other hand, I just corrected a script where the student had used a paragraph which was 54 lines long (893 words). This is much too long for a paragraph, and it could easily have been cut in three or four.


Reminder :

Take time to think about the objective of the author of each document: this needs to be at the centre of your analysis. Talk about the objective of each document from the very first time you mention it.


Reminder :

Students often quote the documents too much. This takes up a lot of valuable time. You may quote from the documents a particularly important phrase, or a particularly difficult phrase, to help you explain. It is not a good idea to quote dozens of phrases.

BBC Commentary - agrégation Rouen

I will be posting here in the next few days detailed  comments concerning the commentary  some of you did on a speech by Tony Benn. Everyone should look carefully at this, even if they did not do the commentary, because questions of method will be front and centre. Here is that document again. 

Speech to Constituents on the Role of Broadcasting (18 October 1968)


(…) I want to talk about the role of the BBC as the prime national instrument in broadcasting. I am not proposing direct Government control of the mass media, to which I would be wholly opposed. Nor am I making, for the purpose of this argument, any complaint of political bias. Arguments about political balance are quite separate and ought to be conducted quite separately from any debate on the future of mass communications.

Broadcasting should be used, to the full, to help individual men and women to live useful and full lives. That is to say that, in its broadest sense, communications should serve the people and not become their master. But if it is to do so, it has to make available the sort of information and programmes which are really relevant to human needs. These needs include the need to be entertained, the need to be informed and the need to be educated. The original BBC charter recognized this.

Now, a new dimension has to be added to this basic requirement. This is the need for helping us to adjust to the enormous changes which are occurring in society, and which are far greater for this generation than for any generation that has ever gone before it. We therefore have to add a new criterion relating to the method. If the broadcasting organisations are to perform their task, they must allow us to meet our objectives by talking to each other. Availability of access to the mass media becomes an integral part of the operational requirement.

Looking back over the history of the BBC, the general level of information, education and culture has risen sharply. It has also given pleasure to millions of people by bringing them entertainment, sporting events, drama and music. Criticisms must be set in the balance against these formidable achievements and a record of service to the public which is widely recognised and appreciated.

However, in recent years, this objectivity has been replaced by a growing tendency to personalise news presentation. The news reader has almost become a commentator; the gap between news and comment has greatly narrowed. This tendency to personalisation, carrying with it editorial powers exercised by individual commentators, has even more serious implications for other types of programmes.

The BBC retains, either on the staff or on contract, a whole host of commentators who, being quite free to comment, carry with them some inevitable suggestion of BBC authority. True, the BBC, through its board of Governors, has no collective view on public matters and very rarely issues a statement of any kind. But listeners and viewers have come to expect from certain well-known broadcasters a particular line of thought which is peculiar to them, but which, though the power of the medium, inevitably shapes public thinking.

Nobody wants to go back to the earlier tradition. Quite the reverse. What is wrong is that availability of access is still too restricted in that it is almost limited to a few hundred broadcasters, chosen by the BBC.

First, in respect of the choice of subjects: Britain has thousands of problems which would merit the attention of the broadcasting authorities. Certain ones are regularly picked out for treatment. They include the most important, but do not by any means cover all those that are important. The choice is supposedly influenced by the interests of the mass audience and it is here that the influence of the programme ratings begins to be felt. It would be surprising if the sort of subjects that are guaranteed to get a large audience in the popular newspapers were not effective on the radio or TV. This is exactly what is happening.

Second, in respect of the presentation of the subject. Here too, the influence of the ratings is very strong and so is the pressure of time. Important subjects are skimped, important discussions are telescoped and conflicts are artificially sharpened. The result is inevitably to make for triviality and superficiality, over-simplifying what is immensely complicated and sensationalizing almost everything that is touched on.

Third, by choice of people. Any BBC producer soon learns that a certain sort of person will give him just what he wants (…)


Tony Benn, 18 October 1968 in: Benn, Tony, Office Without Power: Diaries 1968-72, Arrow Books, London, 1989 (1988), pp. 107-109.




Friday, February 19, 2021

M 2 seminars on Social and Cultural changes in the UK

 You will find here chapter five in the video series on the timeline


And chapter six is here


Thursday, February 18, 2021

Cours de compréhension orale, agrégation interne, feuille de présence individuelle

 Je vous demande de reproduire ce tableau, et me le renvoyer, après le dernier cours, d'ici quelques mois avec une signature pour chaque fois que vous étiez présent e. Ce n'est pas pour vous surveiller, mais pour assurer que je serai payé!

Agrégation interne Compréhension orale    John Mullen  Feuille de présence individuelle








































Tuesday, February 16, 2021

James Cook, online zoom seminar 1st March

 This seminar concentrates on the history of the book. Two friends of mine are speaking.

Le thème de recherche "Le texte et sa postérité" ("Texts & Their Afterlives"), 

(LERMA, UR 853, Aix-Marseille Université), organise un séminaire destiné 

notamment aux agrégatifs, sur les journaux de James Cook.

Il aura lieu lundi 1er mars, de 16h30 à 18h30.

Nous aurons le plaisir d'accueillir:

Sandhya Patel (IHRIM-Université-Clermont-Auvergne) 

The Lives and Afterlives of Cook's Logs and Journals

Jean-Stéphane Massiani, (Lycée Nelson Mandela, Marseille)

 From the Ship to the Pen: James Cook as a Writer in the Making

L'inscription au séminaire se fait avant le 28/02/21 à 17h, sur 

Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/141533890677

L'invitation Zoom sera envoyée aux inscrit(e)s après la fermeture des inscriptions.

seminar M2 more archives and comments

Here are the two archives I mentioned today. I also said that you have until the end of the semester (week 12) to send me your work.

  1. The ecologist https://www.resurgence.org/magazine/issue58-.html

(You have to create an account, but it is free).

  1. The advertising archives https://www.advertisingarchives.co.uk/index.php?service=search&action=do_quick_search&language=en&q=1971

And here is the video lecture we looked at in class


[If possible, come with comments or even questions about the timeline videos.

If you had to omit some of the elements I mentioned in the video, which might you omit and why?

What other types of element could be included?

If you were employed to establish a museum exhibition on Britain in the 1970s, what title would you give it and what might you exhibit?]

Monday, February 15, 2021

M2 seminar 1970s chapter 4

 Here you will find the fourth video in the series.


Saturday, February 13, 2021

James Cook the first two videos


You will find here the first two chapters of the online videos, which will remain online for months.

I have already sent you links to these videos. There will be more videos over the next few weeks, so check back here regularly.


Chapter 1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYejgrsfvLs

Chapter 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7za65kFwJw

Friday, February 12, 2021

M2 seminar 1970s

 You will find here an example of student work done in a previous year. This was a good piece.


You will find here chapter three of the Timeline videos


More information in a few days.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

James Cook

 For all of the questions on the "civilisation" section of the agrégation, knowing the framing document very well is essential. In class tomorrow, I will be looking at the main points in the framing document on James Cook. This will help us understand what questions can come up, and how to deal with them. We will look briefly at a couple of questions which came up last year. Try to find a moment to read over the document before the class:

https://saesfrance.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/programme-agreg-ext-2021.pdf (section on Cook)

Sunday, February 07, 2021

BBC: Commissions of Enquiry


One student came up with a fantastic  mnemonic to memorize the order and names of the commissions!

"Some Charming Student Used His Brewed Potion And Progressed!"

Seminar M2 1970s: article

 You can read the introduction of an important book on the 1970s here. I will be beginning to look at this document in class on Wednesday.


This week's classes

mardi 15h

M2 seminar on  the 1970s.

Link here shortly before.

Article here in a day or two.

mercredi 10h30 

Thème agrégation.

Link here shortly before.

We will be working on the passage by Philippe Djian.

mercredi 13h

Capes interne

Link by mail shortly before.

mercredi 15h

James Cook

Link here shortly before.

The class will be a little longer than the last one.