Sunday, September 26, 2021

thème agrégation marking system Rouen


Qulequ'un me demandait comment comprendre mon système points faute...

La correction du thème à l'agrégation lors du concours est fait par un jury nombreux qui passe des heures à évaluer toutes les fautes imaginables et le nombre de points faute que vaut chaque erreur. (Il ne s'agit pas des points sur 20 qui donneront votre note finale en thème) Je n'ai pas la possibilité de faire cela. Néanmoins, avec mon système 1) vous perdez davantage de points pour une faute plus grave 2) Vous pouvez voir de semaine en semaine si le nombre baisse et 3) je peux vous dire que sur les 16 copies que j'ai corrigées de Djian, le nombre de points faite se situait entre 42 et 118. Des copies d'agrégatifs qui ont moins de 30 points faute sont rares. Une personne qui a réussi facilement l'agrégation l'année dernière a rendu des copies chaque semaine - points faute entre 25 et 60.

L3 UK popular culture since 1945: theory

 In class this week, I will be moving onto some of the theories which have developed to define and explain popular culture. I will be mentioning the Frankfurt school. I do recommend this short talk by the best teacher on YouTube:


Saturday, September 25, 2021


 It is important, if we want to make progress, never to make the same mistake twice, so remember:

No contractions outside dialogue.

No full sentences separated by only a comma.

Thème agrégation Suggested translation Djian


Suggested Translation, from Impardonnables, Philip Djian, 2000


It was seven in the morning.[1] I was on my way to pick Jérémie up from the police station. I was yawning, barely awake yet.[2] I was still rubbing my eyes: I had worked until very late on an awkward[3] paragraph, then[4] I had collapsed dog-tired[5] onto my bed, and the telephone had woken me[6] with a jolt.[7]


The dawn was still a white veil,[8] but an already lukewarm[9] ocean breeze was slipping in. In my line of work,[10] if you[11] gave up on[12] a paragraph and did not sort it out before you went to bed, you would never get very far;[13] [14]you would always be fated[15] to remain[16] a second-rate writer.


He was in a cell, behind bars again. The superintendant reassured me, telling me that Jeremie was free to leave with me, but that I must warn him that they never wanted to hear of him[17] again at the station.


"Talk some sense into him, will you, Francis? I wish you the best of luck, though I can't see it working myself. What an 18-year-old lad is thinking of when he's able to go and hold up[18] a petrol station, I'm telling you, it's pretty heavy. It's not as if he was helping a blind man across the road, is it?"


I nodded my agreement.


"Don't get yourself dragged into all that," he advised me.


"There's no danger of that," I replied. "I'm busy[19] writing a novel, I am. I haven't got a moment to myself these days."


"That's fascinating. It must be fascinating, writing a novel. I find that fascinating".[20]


I nodded my agreement.


I left the station with Jeremie. There was a cafeteria opposite. I needed a coffee to waken myself up properly[21]. And I needed to bite into some spongy patisserie to make up for having got up at the crack of dawn. I signed[22] to Jeremy that he could order whatever he wanted.  His right eye looked like an Agen prune and his nose like a beef tomato.[23] His right hand was bandaged with a cloth or something. And the dawn light which shone upon him and covered him with gold, really did not manage to effect any transformation.


I then took him straight to the kennels and we got his dog[24] back.[25] It would not stop jumping about and spraying saliva all around.[26] We came back by the coastal road.


In the sea, opposite the Casino, the first surfers of the day were straddling their boards[27], shading their eyes, undecided, and searching the silent horizon, sat straight up like prairie dogs. The sky was turning a deep blue.[28] Jeremies dog was quiet now and sat with its tongue hanging out, on the back seat.


"I've decided not to give her a name" Jeremie mumbled. At the end of the day[29] it's pretty stupid is giving an animal a name.


[1] « It was seven a.m. » is the wrong register. We use « a.m. » in administrative register.

[2] Remember that in English you are not generally allowed to separate fully formed sentences with only a comma, as you can in French.

[3] Someone found « unruly », which I liked. « Intractable » or « refractory » is good. « Difficult » « tricky » or « tough » would be clear undertranslations.

[4] Someone tried « I had worked very late… to then fall into bed … » But this structure is completely French « J’avais travaillé très tard… pour ensuite tomber… ». In English the infinitive here would necessarily imply a strong intention, and mean that I worked because I wanted to fall on my bed.

[5] An adjective like « exhausted » would be an under-translation, since it does not render the hyperbole of the original. « Knackered » is much too vulgar.

[6] « Woken me up » seems to suggest agency on the part of the telephone. « Awoken me » is too poetic. « Jolted me awake » was very good.

[7] Some people had other option, like « started me awake ». I checked with Google. "Started me awake" has 58 occurrences on the web. "Startled me awake" has 22 000. I think the reason is that "started" could be ambiguous. Prefer « startled ».

[8] « White and hazy » was good.

[9] Someone suggested « lukewarm ». This is usually used for water, but it’s a good idea. Google tells me the expression « lukewarm breeze » appears on 5 000 or so web pages.

[10] « Profession » would be a more formal register.

[11] "We" gives quite the wrong meaning.

[12] One could try “surrendered to" which renders the idea of the paragraph as an enemy. « Facing » is French (« face à »).

[13] Or « get on in the trade ».

[14] Note that since we have two principal clauses, this must be a semi colon and not a comma. I may have neglected to signal this mistake in some of your scripts.

[15] I quite liked « doomed » also.

[16] Some students tried « stay ». When « stay » precedes adjectives, it sounds considerably more informal. Look at these two examples : « We remain rather anxious about the results of these negotiations .» « What I am saying, my friend, is you should stay angry ».

[17] Not « hear from him » which suggests they do not want to receive letters or emails from him.

[18] Apparently, in US English, one can say « sticks up ». I learned this this week.

[19] « Currently » would be too formal.

[20] Notez bien la série : cela m’intéresse, I find that interesting ; cela m’étonne, I find that surprising, etc.

[21] « Totally » is not good – sounds too much like young people’s slang.

[22] « Signalled » would be too formal.

[23] In the US they call this a beefsteak tomato. If you are systematically using US English, you may use this expression.

[24] In my opinion, the sex of the dog is incidental, and so not translating it makes more sense. Being precise about this and writing « bitch » would put the writing in another register – medical, no doubt.

[25] Several students here used incorrect structures with « that » as relative. Revise that chapter in the grammar book

[26] Note that « here and there » means in far fewer places than « un peu partout ».

[27] It is a serious mistake to use a singular here. This is the distributive singular in French, but we don’t have it in English.

[28] The indefinite article here is a definite plus. Notice we often use « turn » followed directly by an adjective. « Into » is incorrect here. « He’s turning dangerous », « The sky turned orange ». Today’s pop song : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tbobaz8nn4

[29] Not « after all », but « in the end » is possible.

Agrégation: History of the BBC week two

You will find here a recording of a BBC class in which I deal with the  BBC and cultural history, and the BBC and the history of representations, before going on to speak of the commissions of enquiry which punctuated the life of the organization from 1922 to 1995.


This may not be exactly the class you attended, and any administrative information in it may not apply to your group.

Remember if you use the search engine at the top of this page on the blog, you will find all the posts I made last year about the BBC, with many links to Youtube videos and articles.

M1 MEEF Britain since the Romans: week two

I got through the Middle Ages last week, and as far as the start of the Civil War. 

I recorded the classes, which now make up these British history podcasts: They will be useful for you for revision, or if you missed the class because you were ill or whatever.

This one on the Middle Ages in Britain, the Norman invasion and all that 


This one on the Reformation


Next week will cover the Civil War and continue as far as the Industrial Revolution.

On the civil war, this podcast in French by France Inter is worth a listen


On the Industrial Revolution, I recommend this documentary


Tuesday, September 21, 2021

L3 racism and antiracism etc

I mentioned in class the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993, and the political earthquake caused by the evidence of police racism. This documentary explains the story 




Sunday, September 19, 2021

Agrégation: History of the BBC week one

You will find here podcasts of BBC classes from the first week.

1a  General Introduction

1b What questions need to be asked about the history of the BBC

This may not be exactly the class you attended, and any administrative information in it may not apply to your group.

Remember if you use the search engine at the top of this page on the blog, you will find all the posts I made last year about the BBC, with many links to Youtube videos and articles.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

News: Anti Catholicism in Scotland

 Today' s news


Britain since the Romans part one. MEEF 1 civilisation britannique

You will find here the recordings of the first class, which you may need for revision purposes, or for a classmate who couldn't get there.

Podcast one looks at the history of Roman Britain


Podcast two looks at the Anglo Saxon invasion and the period up to 1066.


The documentary I recommend on Roman Britain is here


I mentioned in class a viking warrior who had been thought male but was actually a woman. article here:


Thème agrégation suggested translation Serge

 Here is my suggested translation  for the first passage. I particularly want to emphasize 1) add more verbs when you translate into English and 2) reduce the amount of latinate vocabulary.

In theory, by Wednesday I have received your translations which I try hard to correct for the following Wednesday. Occasionally, I will be too busy and only correct half of them, but not often. Only send your translation if you have had time to do it thoroughly. See you Wednesday.

Note that this translation will only remain here on the blog for a couple of weeks.

Mikhail Ivanovitch Kostrov, though in no way a superstitious man, felt[1] things coming in his life; events announced themselves through clues which were almost impossible to pin down. Such was the case[2] with[3] his arrest. There had been the unusual tone which the rector had taken when he had spoken to him : “Mikhail Ivanovitch, I have decided to suspend your class for the time being.[4] You have got as far as the Directory[5], have you not ?”[6] It was obvious the rector was afraid[7] of there being allusions to the latest political turn. “So if you can[8] prepare”, the rector went on, “a very brief course[9] on Ancient Greece for me.” That meant a gap of around two thousand years.[10] At this point, Kostrov could sense that he was earning himself a black mark,[11] but he relished doing it, just for the pleasure of alarming this comfortable coward[12] who always put on a special voice to call the secretary of the Committee. “Excellent idea,” he said, “I’ve had in mind for some time a series of lectures[13] on class struggle in the cities of antiquity.[14] There is room for a whole new theory of what tyranny is”.[15]

The rector avoided his gaze, and kept his head bent over his paperwork. The top of his head had a bald patch which made him look tonsured like a monk. “Let’s not have too many new theories, even so, shall we not?” he muttered between his thick lips. “Good day to you.” It was at the moment he looked at the rector’s monk-like haircut that Mikhail Ivanovitch felt he was being pulled towards new events.

He left very much bewildered : “Someone has denounced me[16]. Who could it be?” Then the image came to his mind of a small, inelegant, rather large-breasted, dumpy woman, squeezed into her army surplus raincoat. In her podgy hand was a party member’s[17] briefcase, already stuffed full, no doubt, of important documents.

“Comrade professor,” she had said, “you were not very clear on the subject of the left wing of Thermidor, or perhaps I may not have grasped[18] what you were intending to say.”

From Minuit dans le siècle, Victor Serge

[1] « Could feel » would suggest it was only on that particular day.

[2] One might write « It was like that with his arrest », which is a little more informal.

[3] Or « concerning his arrest »

[4] Les « points de suspension » n’ont absolument pas le même rôle en anglais. Je les ai tous supprimé de ma traduction. « For the time being » is a little better than « temporarily », because less latinate.

[5] Or directorate.

[6] This is a formal variant of the usual tag « hadn’t you ? ». I think the formality is justified here.

[7] Do not hesitate to use a paraphrase to avoid having a sentence with no main verb : infinitely less common in English than in French.

[8] One needs to reflect here on how polite the rector is being and/or how authoritarian he is being. Several people were tempted by a DO emphasis structure, but I think that is too polite here, and has other connotations.

[9] Make sure you know the difference between « class » « course » « lesson » etc.

[10] I think a structure with « of » is best here, but if you want to use and adjectival structure, makesure you get it correct : « a two-thousand-year gap ».

[11] Someone found « overstepping the mark », which is excellent.

[12] A word like « wimp » or « sissy » is the wrong register : too close to macho slang. « Chicken » is also inappropriate in register.

[13] Attention au faux ami ! Makes sure you can distinguish between lecture/ conference/ reunion/ congress.

[14] I checked, and “antiquity”, unlike “the Middle Ages”, does not take a capital letter

[15] Be careful with how you punctuate dialogue.

[16] There are a number of synonyms but several (like ‘someone has ratted on me’ are too informal).

[17] Be careful : “militant” is a false friend. https://www.linguee.fr/francais-anglais/search?source=auto&query=militant “Activist” is often a good translation for French “militant” (un militant écologiste = a Green activist, un militant trotskyste = a Trotskyist activist etc), but this is a specific context.

[18] In this particular case one could probably avoid the modal (unless most cases when French people are tempted to avoid modals in English).