Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Captain Cook agrégation anglais 2020 option civilisation post 37: Slavery and empire

This podcast from the BBC looks at the views of some historians on slavery and empire, especially in the 18th century. very useful context. 

It seems to me that the historian who wants to put transatlantic slavery in a specific place in history is rather badly treated by the others, but the podcast is nevertheless well worth a listen.

MEEF .... Britishness

There are many opinions about Britishness and British identity. It is a subject which the juries like! Here is one opinion from a few Years ago.


Saturday, December 28, 2019



[1] Although it sometimes seems that the day of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, and the annual “Burns’ night” every January are more important than Saint Andrew’s day
[2] Note that the implication, in French, of the verb « expliquer » may not be the implication, in English, of the word « explain ».

Captain Cook agrégation anglais option civilisation post 36: aboriginal agriculture

Here you will find a short, left-wing book review of a book about aboriginal society in Australia before the arrival of Cook.


Pour préparer le CAPES

Si vous avez tendance à paraphraser les documents, plutôt que les expliquer dans leur contexte, voici le livre qu’il vous faut sur le Royaume Uni.


Friday, December 20, 2019

MEEF M1 end of semester

I have begun looking at your homework assignments. I will be posting here in a week's time a very long set of comments (many things I didn't have time to say in class).

The marking will take some time. Note that the mark you receive is not supposed to reflect the mark I think a CAPES jury would give you - their marks are considerably lower.

It only remains for me to wish you, in order,  Happy Hannukah, Happy Christmas and Happy New Year (in Britain you can wish Happy New Year beforehand, often saying 'Happy New Year if I don't see you').

L3 Popular Culture end of semester

I am sure you remember that the DST counts for a small portion of the semester's mark, and the exam in January counts for much more. I wll be putting on this blog at the very end of December  remarks and advice concerning the DST, which will help you with the exam.

You still have time to fill in this anonymous questionnaire:

Wishing you, in order, Happy Hannukah, Happy Christmas, Happy New Year. (In English you can wish Happy New Year beforehand).

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Devoir maison MEEF

Hope to see most of you in class in half an hour. I have received homework assignments - some of them very good - from the following people. If you thought you had sent me one and your name is not below, please send me another email so I can check spam folders etc.

Devoirs maison reçus

Alice D

Alice P

Andrea JP

Anna Leigh D

Axelle S

Basile G

Chloe M

Clémence A

Clément P

Daphne G

Elisa B

Emy L

Florent L

Georgia D

Guillaume L

Gwendoline B

Jérémy P

Léa B

Léa B (there are two Léa Bs, I received the two exercises).

Ludivine D

Marina T

Maxime A

Melissa Y

Mina O

Priscilla C

Rene K

Romane L

Sam T

Sarah N

Thibaut L

Valentin D

Tuesday, December 17, 2019


Merci de vos mails. Notre cours de demain est à l'heure habituelle, et aussi dans la salle habituelle (A515).

Monday, December 16, 2019

Rappel salles pour DST

Groupe C,  salle A411 . 

Puis  Groupe A, salle A107 

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Devoir maison MEEF

Jusqu’à mardi midi c’est bon! Je sais que vous êtes débordés.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Captain Cook agrégation anglais 2020 option civilisation post 35: the musket

It is often forgotten that Cook was a military man. This was his favourite weapon.


Friday, December 13, 2019

Evaluation UE L3 Culture populaire au Royaume-Uni depuis 1945

Chers étudiant e s de mon cours de L3 à Rouen. Pour m'aider dans la préparation de cette UE pour l'année suivante, voulez vous bien remplir ce sondage, entièrement anonyme. 


L3 Popular Culture Popular music

You will find here the last class I gave on popular music, in Mp3 form.

This article will also help with some key ideas:

M1 seminar First World War Commemoration

You will find here recordings of the seminars on commemoration!

Part one is here

Part two is here

The PowerPoint is here

This article covers the same ground.

Captain Cook agrégation anglais 2020 option civilisation post 34: Maori commemorations

This short article gives a Maori perspective on the first encounter with Cook, and on the commemoration 250 years later.


Thursday, December 12, 2019

Commenting on the UK election

On m'invite ce soir autour de 23h sur France 24 (français) pour commenter les élections britanniques.

UK election

How has the Uk election been seen on social media?


Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Thème agrégation

  1. We were to have worked on the passage from Slimani in class today. A few people have sent me their translation, but I am myself behind schedule and have not yet corrected them. You may, if you have time, send me your translation of Slimani over the next few days. I will correct and return the translations and post my suggested translation on the blog.
  2. Next Thursday, I believe, you have your mock exam in translation. I know not everyone will be able to make it, given this busy time of year. If you wish to do the translation into English at home (without a dictionary and within the same time limit applied in the real exam) simply send me an email on the Thursday evening and I will send you the passage to translate. It will not be quite like in the exam because you will be typing your translation.
  3. Our next class is on the 8th January and we will be working on Montherlant.
  4. Happy Christmas.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Dernières nouvelles

La situation concernant les transports se clarifie. Je ne pourrai pas être présent pour mon cours à 9h.  Je mettrai des informations supplémentaires ici pour le groupe en question.

Par contre, il semble certain que j’y arrive pour les cours de l’après-midi.
À 15h séminaire ww1
A 17h MEEF M1.

History of migration

A fascinating story from the very beginning of the 20th century.


Monday, December 09, 2019

Classes on Wednesday

I have been able to get a train ticket from Paris to Rouen, but it is unclear if I can get from here to Saint Lazare tomorrow Morning.

L3 Important - changement de salles pour DST 17 décembre

Le mardi 17/12, pour la Civilisation GB groupe C, nous serons en salle A411 de 11h à 12h30. 

Puis en salle A107 avec le groupe A de Civilisation GB de 15h30 à 17h.

L3 Popular music: slides on music

1) Make sure you read yesterday's post!
2) You will find here the Powerpoint concerning "Studying popular music".
3) The Mp3 recording of the second class on music will be posted soon
4) Thanks to the person who reminded me.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Captain Cook agrégation 2020 option civilisation britannique post 32: plants

The implications and effects of British colonization are more wide-ranging than we suspect, frequently.

Read this article about plants in Australia


Les cours de cette semaine

Mardi, je resterai en région parisienne afin de rejoindre la grève pour défendre les retraites.

Les DST de mes deux groupes de L3 sont reportés d'une semaine.

En ce qui concerne les cours de mercredi, tout dépendra des trains.

Il y aura en tout cas, sur ce blog, des informations et travaux éventuels.

Faites circuler ces informations s'il vous plaît.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Thème agrégation

The report from 2011 including a long commentary on the passage we worked on is Here. http://cache.media.education.gouv.fr/file/agreg_ext/70/4/r_agreg_ext_anglais_2011_194704.pdf

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Women in British popular music

I was speaking yesterday about male domination in Uk popular music. There are of course a number of exceptions: see here


Monday, December 02, 2019

Thème agrégation Amette

On Wednesday, we will be going through the passage from Amette. I think I have sent back everyone's work, but my organization has been breaking up of late, so if I have not returned your translation of Amette, please send me a mail with your translation again.

Actualité à Londres

L'attentat de vendredi dernier s'est vite politisé


La campagne électorale au Royaume-Uni

Campagne électorale? antisémitisme? islamophobie? On m'a interviewé pendant dix minutes à la radio suisse hier sur ces sujets. Le résultat se trouve en ligne ici:



This article will interest both L3 students thinking about popular music and legitimacy, and MEEF students thinking about "the past in the present".


Third seminar on historiography

(Note the link to the important article, which I have given you in a separate post, below).

You will find here the Mp3 recording of the third seminar, where the subject was social history, cultural history, and recent trends in history writing, all concerning the First World War.

The recording is here

And the entire powerpoint for the three seminars is here.

Seminar M1 Introduction to historiography and to memory studies: article

In our Wednesday seminar this week, we will begin by looking at this article in some detail. Please read it first.

A view of world war one historiography

L3 Evaluation - How it works

Someone asked me for more information about the final exam in January. Since you do not know, until you arrive in the exam room, whether the question is on the British programme or on the US programme, this can be a little stressful. Naturally, different lecturers emphasize different priorities, though you should remember that we are not out to trap you and all examiners are looking for a good level of English, a grasp of essential facts and the capacity to structure those facts into an argument which replies fairly precisely to the question.

If the question turns out to be on the British programme, it will be in the form of an essay - that is to say a fairly open question. Of course, you need to be able to mobilize appropriate examples to illustrate your answer, but you are free to choose what examples you use. So, naturally, the problem is not to be sure you have memorized every artist we have studied, or every musician. To help, here is an example from last year . The question was as follows:

"Write an essay in English.

“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. 

There are many different ways of answering this question well. It was essential to be able to explain that "what people want" is complicated, because (as Bourdieu said) people's social origins define what they will probably want and even it has been said that (as Adorno alleged) the industry can make people want things). But otherwise, it is a very open question which allows you to show the three qualities mentioned in the first question above. Here is the feedback I put on the blog after this test.

“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. 

This was in fact the classroom test - the principle for the final exam is exactly the same, but it is longer. For the classroom test above, two thirds of students got a mark of ten or over.

I hope this helps!