Friday, March 30, 2018

Information in advance L3 civilisation

Note that there will be no class on 17 April ( I have a meeting in Brest). But there will be a replacement class on 24 April.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

L3 Popular culture since 1945 the recordings

Here are recordings of recent lectures:

Television class one
Television class two

Popular music class one
Popular music class two

key words: British history, podcasts, popular culture, popular music, television

M1 LEA Questions économiques et sociales- pays anglophones

You still have a few days left to send in your homework assignment: don't forget!

L3 Notes on the classroom test, part two.

Notes on your classroom test, part two.

As I explained, the classroom test does not count for very much in your general semester mark, but it is very important in that my notes will allow you better to understand how to answer this kind of question, and how to deal some of the complex issues thrown up in the study of popular culture.

“The power of products of popular culture is that they give the people what they want.”
Discuss this quotation, examining what different thinkers have said concerning the demand for popular culture, and looking in particular at how visual artists have found a wide audience for their work.

« Discuss this quotation ». This means you must say how far it appears to be true or false, but also what other similar questions are relevant concerning popular culture.

There are many ways to answer the question, while showing the knowledge you have acquired about British culture specifically. Here are some initial notes, which I will add to as I mark your work.

1)   You should note that this is a controversial quotation and you should be able to show that some might tend to agree and some to disagree.
2)   Some of the terms need dismantling. a) who are « the people » (note the importance of the definite article: « le peuple » not « les gens »). Is there a homogeneous « people » in modern society, or are we divided into « generations » or social classes or « affective alliances »? b) Is it possible to know « what the people want »? This is not a simple idea. Why do people want what they want? Etc.
3)   Which thinkers can you write about in connection with the quotation? Adorno is obviously one. Several students summarized quite accurately the introduction to Adorno’s ideas which I presented in class, but the exercise is not to write a summary. His ideas must be compared with the quotation. Adorno was generally opposed to products of popular culture. Far from believing that people (or the people) were being given what they wanted, he maintained that people were being told what they should want, were being almost obliged to want what the market wanted to sell to them. What is more, he believed that people were being given experiences which were bad for them, which made them into children again and stopped them from becoming fully human.
4)   Several other thinkers could be mentioned, but one obvious one is Hebdige and his work on the meaning of style. He looked at what was provided for young people by rock and roll, punk or reggae subcultures. He does not exactly say that they give people what they want, but that they are useful in people’s lives, because they help to structure (sometimes imaginary) resistance to official capitalist, elitist views of the world. Jyst to tale one example, the lover of reggae, living in a world where white bourgeois or nationalistic thought is taught and valued can with others create a small community where black language and music, peace loving ideas and back to Africa dreams can be put at the centre of life.
You might also want to mention Grossberg, and his idea that people use popular culture to build affective alliances, imagined communities which allow them to deal with the world. This approach again emphasizes mass participation in popular culture, and does not present popular culture as simply something produced for passive consumers by a market hoping to make a profit.

For the second part on visual art we are still looking at the same question: are people receiving « what they want », but there is an added complication : visual art is not necessarily popular culture. Artists are often trained at elite institutions, for example. This is not always the case: one might term street art as popular culture: anyone can do it, and people can become well known without the intervention of established museums and galleries (often with a little help from the internet), in the way that pop stars might. Banksy is the obvious example, producing accessible, thought provoking work available to everyone, even those who do not feel art galleries are for them. Other artists such as L. S. Lowry have become tremendously popular ( he even has a pop song about him). Photographers such as Martin Parr also seem to be trying to make their work accessible, and land artists such as Goldsworthy take their work out of the galleries and out of the towns. [each time you mention, an artist, it is good to give one example of their work, which I am not doing here]. Public sculpture projects such as the fourth plinth are also placed in contexts which make them open to everyone.
On the other hand, a lot of visual art remains reserved to the initiated. Recent winners of the prestigious Turner prize cannot be said to be producing art for everyone.
The question of publicly funded art galleries is linked to the idea of giving people what they want. The fact that galleries are free in the UK, are no longer concentrated only in London, and receive millions of visitors, are vectors of popularity, yet the dynamic is mostly top-down, and the galleries do not correspond to most criteria of popular culture.

Because popular culture is ever changing and extremely heterogeneous, it is very difficult to make strong affirmative statements about it. This means you need to know how to hedge, and this more difficult in a foreign language.
For example, it is better not to say “popular culture is just to entertain people and have fun”. You should say one of the following:

Many commentators feel that popular culture is only concerned with entertainment and fun.
Popular culture may be seen as mainly a question of entertainment and fun.
And then you can give some counter example which adds nuance. For example, if pop music is very much concerned with fun, it seems clear that it can sometimes be aiming at making people think, expressing political demands or denouncing injustice. (See this link for a talk in French on British anti racist songs).

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

L3 room for today

Today we are in T 013.

Monday, March 26, 2018

L3 Popular culture in Britain : devoir sur table Comments part one

I have begun marking your exams. I will be posting here  comments and suggestions, in particular on points which proved difficult for a number of students. There are many different ways of writing a good essay on a subject like this. 

First of all a few reminders on method:

Dissertation de civilisation (extraits du rapport agrégation 2004)
Quatre points méritent une attention plus particulière : la construction d’une problématique dès l’introduction, l’élaboration d’une argumentation, le rôle de la conclusion et l’importance d’une expression soignée. Le problème majeur constaté par le jury est la difficulté de passer du placage de connaissances à l’argumentation. Cela suppose une préparation sérieuse, l’assimilation des connaissances afin de pouvoir les déployer au service d’une réflexion personnelle, et un entraînement à l’épreuve de la composition.
  • L’introduction occupe une place stratégique dans une composition : elle définit l’angle sous lequel le sujet est abordé, le cadre dans lequel il sera traité. Il est donc essentiel de s’attacher à analyser les termes du sujet ou de la citation dès l’introduction, afin de bien en percevoir la portée et de prendre une certaine distance.
  • Dans le cas d’une composition en civilisation, il convient entre autres de bien cerner la période à traiter.
  • Une introduction qui aborde la citation d’un point de vue linguistique ou sous un angle pseudo-philosophique, qui ne s’enracine pas dans le contexte historique de la question au programme, révèle une méconnaissance de la nature même de l’épreuve puisque l’épreuve de civilisation suppose une réflexion fondée sur la maîtrise de la question au programme.
  • De même, une simple copie du sujet ou une paraphrase de la citation met en évidence un manque de préparation et d’entraînement. Certaines copies se contentent même parfois de mettre les éléments de la citation à la forme interrogative, puis négative. D’autres se demandent si l’auteur a tort ou raison, mais ne parviennent pas à approfondir l’analyse. Les meilleures copies mettent en relation les termes, identifient et analysent les mots clés, les situent dans un contexte et proposent un fil conducteur qui structure la composition.
  • Dans ce dernier cas, l’annonce d’un plan est en général cohérente avec l’analyse et permet d’approfondir le sujet et d’argumenter de manière pertinente.
  • Plus souvent, les copies étaient articulées autour de termes centraux de la citation. Lorsque ceux-ci étaient simplement juxtaposés, ils ne permettaient guère de cerner la question.
  • Certains plans s’inspirant parfois du programme officiel s’apparentaient davantage à des cadres généraux qui entraînent un étalage de connaissances sans mise en rapport explicite avec le sujet proposé. D’autres enfin ont plaqué une problématique sans rapport évident avec la citation.
  • Elle découle en partie de l’introduction et du degré d’élaboration de la problématique. Elle est également symptomatique du degré de maîtrise des connaissances qui, bien qu’indispensables à une argumentation pertinente, ne sont pas suffisantes. La plupart du temps les candidats maîtrisent les données factuelles essentielles malgré quelques erreurs. Ces dernières ne portent pas préjudice à la réflexion d’ensemble, et le jury est capable de faire preuve d’indulgence, compte tenu de la masse d’informations à assimiler face à un programme aussi vaste.
  • En revanche, certains événements doivent être connus. La simple mention de quelques dates ne suffit pas.
  • Il est donc indispensable de sélectionner les connaissances pertinentes afin de les utiliser dans le cadre d’un raisonnement, d’une démonstration. C’est la compétence principale qui est évaluée dans cette épreuve.
  • D’autre part, une argumentation trop manichéenne ou simpliste n’est pas non plus satisfaisante, car elle ne permet pas de rendre compte de la complexité des faits historiques. Il faut savoir nuancer ses propos pour faire preuve d’une compréhension fine.
  • Si les connaissances historiques sont bien évidemment la matière première d’une réflexion de qualité, il est recommandé de connaître les positions des principales écoles de pensée historiographiques.
La conclusion
  • L’absence de conclusion est assez fréquente, soit par manque de temps, soit à cause d’une problématisation insuffisante. S’il est légitime, voire recommandé d’élargir le propos par une référence à la suite des événements, il ne faut pas oublier pour autant de reprendre les grandes lignes de la composition, de synthétiser les principales conclusions intermédiaires, afin de faire le bilan de son travail.
  • Cette étape est essentielle car une conclusion réussie peut faire toute la différence entre une copie faible et une copie acceptable. Lorsque la direction d’ensemble a tendance à se perdre au fur et à mesure du développement, une conclusion qui reprend les idées du propos introductif, permet de relier les fils de la réflexion et de faire aboutir la composition, laisse le lecteur sur une impression plus favorable.

Max Bygraves

A 1960 single from Max Bygraves, variety star:

Fings ain't what they used to be

Sunday, March 25, 2018

British TV advertising

A competition some time ago for the best UK advert was won by this one for Cadbury's Smash. This is instant mashed potato. At the time, and even to some extent today, British people prefer to make mash from real potatoes, and the market for instant mashed potatoes was hard to create. In this advert, alien visitors are surprised that humans are so primitive that they use potatoes.


Saturday, March 24, 2018

Interested in culture and research? Come along!

Histoire culturelle, géographie culturelle, où en sommes-nous ?

Date : 05 avril 2018 
Horaire : 14h00-17h00 
Lieu : UFR LSH | Bât. Robespierre | Salle F 508 | Mont-Saint-Aignan 
Intervenants : John MullenOdette Louiset
Entrée libre
Benoît Roux
Ingénieur d'études

ERIAC - Université de Rouen Normandie
UFR Lettres et Sciences Humaines - Bureau A315
17, rue Lavoisier - FR-76821 Mont-Saint-Aignan cedex
benoit.roux@univ-rouen.fr -