Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Listening to a New Zealand accent


Will a DNA based diet help you fit your jeans? 3 min 23 seconds



Tips for long distance parenting : 3 min 25 secs


100 years of women at the BBC - free online conference

 If  you can make it, I recommend you attend (virtually).

100 Years of Women at the BBC
7 May 2021 1pm – 5.30pm (BST)
Co-sponsored by Critical Studies in Television and Edge Hill University Institute for Social Responsibility
Characterised from early in its life as ‘Auntie’, the BBC itself has been gendered female in the cultural consciousness. But this belies an historically male-dominated institution in which women have often had to fight for their rights to be heard. Recent controversies around equal pay, misogynistic abuse towards BBC personalities and a lack of female representation at the top of the corporation suggest that the institution has far to go in matters of gender equality.
The workshop will present fresh and innovative work-in-progress research on women at the BBC. Our presentations will explore the careers of some pioneering female workers at the BBC. The workshop aims to shed fresh light on influential figures such as Grace Wyndham Goldie and Jill Craigie; to draw attention to careers that are often overlooked – such as gramophone operators or production designers; to re-examine forgotten on-screen personalities; and to consider women’s contributions to prestigious BBC strands such as Play for Today.  We will also think about the tools we use to explore women’s television history, with a panel that focuses on the pros and cons of using interviews as a research method for historical studies.
Registration for the event is free. Please visit the event website: https://www.edgehill.ac.uk/isr/100-years-of-women-at-the-bbc/


Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Saturday, March 27, 2021

James Cook. Video chapter five

This chapters covers first encounters in New Zealand, and questions arising.


James Cook agrégation post 65: Tupaia exhibition

Information about this recent museum exhibition here 


Friday, March 26, 2021

BBC agrégation orals

 This recording of a class given elsewhere will be useful for my students in Rouen. It is material we have already covered in class, but which needs listening to more than once. 


Monday, March 22, 2021

Video chapter 4 James Cook and his Expeditions

You will find here on YouTube the fourth chapter  on "Les voyages de James Cook" It takes us up to where he leaves Tahiti with Tupaia, en route for New Zealand (unknowingly).


Thursday, March 18, 2021


 If you missed the class on Wednesday at three, or if you need to hear it again, here is a recording

Just click here

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

listening agrégation

Here are the two pieces we listened to as practice for the agrégation interne compréhension orale. Of course we only listened to the first few minutes. I recommend that you listen to the whole programme. If yo understand less than 90%, listen three times.



Monday, March 15, 2021

Feuille de présence


Les stagiaires de l'agrégation interne devraient m'envoyer (après le troisième et dernier cours) par mail, une feuille signée de ce format. Merci!!

TD BBC agrégation interne, feuille de présence

























Video chapter 3: The Expeditions of James Cook

 You will find here another video chapter on Cook's first expedition.  these videos will first take a chronological approach, going through the three expeditions and commenting on significant, typical, or confusing episodes and their contexts.


Thursday, March 11, 2021

BBC préparation des oraux

Congratulations on having survived the written exams!

We have a few classes on text commentay before the orals. I think the first one is on the 17th.

Here is a collection of documents. We certainly will not have time to look at them all, but read through them and look up the references etc which will help you.

The collection is here 

aide aux étudiants


Aider et accompagner les étudiants à l'URN  

L’Université de Rouen Normandie se mobilise pour aider les étudiants en situation de fragilité, dans le contexte actuel de crise sanitaire. En complément de l’action de l’État et de l’établissement, les partenaires et les associations sont également sur le terrain pour accompagner au mieux les étudiantes et étudiants de l’Université.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Monday, March 08, 2021

Methodologie de la recherche en civilisation . Cours de M Mullen.

The classes  are going to be hybrid, as follows.

This week : you are working at home. 

1. Look at these worksheets


Answer as many of the questions as you can, taking notes.

Next week we will have a live class by zoom and we will look at the answers and discuss the problems.

2. Write in exactly 100 words an abstract for your research dissertation. Send it to me before next Monday  ( john. mullen at univ-rouen.fr ) Write it in English if you are in the English department: otherwise in French.

3. If you have any other questions, or anything to ask about methodology, ask by email.

NB cours en live mercredi prochain à 12h

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

BBC - commentary on Benn's speech [Updated with part four on 5th March]

Commentary : Speech on the BBC by Tony Benn

As the written exams are coming up in a week or so, I thought I would put this on the blog straight away. I give here some initial comments. In a couple of days, I will add more to this post (no doubt in a different colour to help you identify it).

There are a large number of ways of doing a good commentary of this document. The jury certainly does not have in mind a specific approach we you are supposed to find or guess. A very good commentary will show

-         A high level of quite sophisticated formal English (few mistakes, a wide vocabulary, some complex sentences, well-constructed paragraphs)

-         A clear understanding of what Tony Benn says and what he is trying to do in this short extract from a much longer speech

-         A number of signs of a good knowledge of the historical context of the time of the speech, of the debates and controversies which Benn’s contribution brings to mind, and of where this intervention fits in the long history of that important question : what should the BBC should be doing for its public ?


Now, this last point could allow you to write many dozens of pages, so naturally your context is not supposed to be comprehensive – if you include some of the more important elements among those which I am including in my comments, this is quite sufficient.

Let me first go through the questions we always ask.


WHO? (is expressing themselves)

Tony Benn is probably the best known of the MPs who represented the Left wing of the Labour Party in the 1970s and 1980s, and was a key influence on the political ideas of Jeremy Corbyn who would much later lead the Labour Party for a few years. Benn was a member of parliament for over 50 years, a minister in the Labour governments of Harold Wilson in the 1960s and 1970s. When he decided to retire from his position as member of parliament, in 2001, he drily remarked that he wanted to stop being an MP « in order to spend more time on politics ». In this way he intended to communicate his opinion that some of the great social changes come about through protest, strike action and other mass activity, not as a result of purely electoral strategies. Indeed he became a key leader of the Stop the War Coalition, the biggest mass political organization seen in the UK for a very long time.

Benn is also known for having written, and later published, detailed diaries of his political work, including very frank details of the secret power play which is sometimes in evidence behind the scenes. This extract is indeed taken from one of the volumes of his diaries, published twenty years after the events. The title of the volume « Office without Power » expresses his conviction that left wing governments or ministers are almost never able to carry out radical social change, because, although they are in office, the real power lies with big companies and international capital, not with governments : this is a viewpoint characteristic of the radical Left.

In 1968, Benn was minister of technology under the Prime Ministership of Harold Wilson. He had, two years previously, been Postmaster General, and therefore had very direct involvement with policy questions in the BBC.


TO WHOM? (are they trying to communicate)

The speech is made « to constituents ». It would be a mistake not to show that you understand this word[1] : Benn is talking to the people whose MP he is, the people who live in the area which elected him as MP (Bristol South East). Remember that once an MP is elected, they are supposed to represent everyone who lives in their constituency, of whatever political colour.

This document has a second audience, too, since it was reprinted twenty years later in Benn’s published diaries. It is then to be read by people who read Benn’s diaries. This would mostly be people broadly in sympathy with Benn’s political ideas, hoping to learn from his experience in dealing with a wide variety of political and social problems.



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


The late 1960s was a period of rapid change. Television was becoming omnipresent in British homes, the competition between the two BBC channels and the single commercial channel was quite heated. Benn will refer to this in his speech when he speaks of the question of ratings. The BBC still had a monopoly in radio at this time, and the 1967 reorganization had attempted to thoroughly modernize the tone and content of BBC  radio.

Public debate about broadcasting at this times centred around the effects of television on people, especially children, and on the role of the media in supporting the establishment. The Pilkington report in the early 1960s had been very favourable to the BBC, and very critical of commercial television, and this is why the third channel had been awarded to the BBC (BBC2). Mary Whitehouse’s organization, the National Viewers and Listeners Association, was running a « clean up television » campaign, hoping to stop vulgar or irreligious content being broadcast. The Director-General, Hugh Greene felt the BBC needed to absorb the social transformations going on in the 1960s. He famously commented « « I believe we have a duty to take account of the changes in society, to be ahead of public opinion rather than always to wait upon it. »


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


Tony Benn begins by replying to a criticism often made of the radical Left, that it is hoping for a Stalinist style centralized control of broadcasting, and adds that he is not in this speech going to speak of the medi abeing too favourable to the Conservative party.

He makes a series of criticisms of the content of broadcasting : That the personality and opinions of broadcasters are having more and more influence, that worries about audience ratings and competition are having too much influence and limiting the content broadcast. Finally he claims that the style of media presentation of important subjects tends to trivialize them rather than explore them fully.

These criticisms are of the same tenor as those made by scholars studying the media, who became more numerous in the late sixties and seventies. The concept of agenda-setting (developed by  McCombs and Shaw in the sixties, from earlier precursors), concentrates precisely on that capacity of mass media not so much to tell people what to think as to tell people what questions to think about. This is what Benn seems to be saying in paragraph 8. Shortly afterwards, when Benn is complaining of “triviality”, “superficiality” and “sensationalism”, one is reminded of the analysis of Pierre Bourdieu, in his book “Sur la télévision” [2] in which Bourdieu insists that the form of television tends to make serious discussion of social questions impossible. In this, Bourdieu is no doubt more pessimistics than Benn.

Benn frames his criticism within a very positive view of broadcasting in general, which he feels has massively improved the lives and cultural sophistication of ordinary people


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

Benn is warning about some of the negative aspects of bnroadcasting, in particular of broadcasting news and current affaires, while celebrating the great achievements of broadcasting, he is concerned that the worldview the BBC is putting across does not serve the people.

Later, by reprinting this speech in his diaries, he is hoping that left wing people who are the ones who read his diaries will learn something useful by looking back at historical debates Benn was involved in as MP ans as minister.


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

It seems to me there is little to day about this, the style of the speech being very straightforward.


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

Benn mentions questions of political balance. This has been discussed, firstly, in relation to electoral politics and the representation of political parties and their programmes and personalities, on TV and radio. The UK electoral system gives a solid position to two parties – Labour and Conservative, and each have from time to time complained of lack of balance. In the 1926 general strike, the government dissuaded the BBC from  broadcasting statements by Ramsay Macdonald, the leader of the Labour Party.[3] Another complaint from Labour, later accepted by the BBC, took place in relation with a documentary about Labour leadership, in 1970. This was given the partisan title “Yesterday’s Men”.[4]


 Text commentary – speech by Tony Benn

[This is part two of my comments. There will be more.]


Based on the six scripts I received commenting on this document, here is a presentation of some of the things students got wrong. Please do not take it personally if I am quoting your mistakes ! It is to help everybody.


I already mentioned in my initial comments the usefulness of the paratexte. If you do not know who Tony Benn was, this section gives you a lot of information.

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

Tony Benn published in 1988 his diaries. Very minor MPs cannot find a publisher for their diaries, so he must have played an important role. This volume of his diaries covers only 4 years, and the start date and end date do not correspond to changes of government – the volume goes from half way through a Labour government to half way through a Conservative government. It is reasonable to conclude that he published several volumes of his diaries. This in fact reflects his position as the most influential Left wing MP for the 1970s and 1980s at least. Further, the dates show that the first edition of the volume appeared in 1988, and a second edition was brought out only one year afterwards : we can conclude that the book sold well. The title of the volume « Office without power » identifies Benn as a left-winger who believes that rich capitalists rather than governments have power in British society.


Of course, it is even more useful to know who the man is. Here is an obituary of Tony Benn from the national daily The Guardian



And here is one from the radical left




As often, one of the main dangers was paraphrasing – rewriting in three sentences what Benn said in one. Instead, make sure each paragraph shows you know something which is not already in the document, but with which you have shown the link. Benn mentions a small number of huge questions, and each one has been discussed before and after Benn, or can be illustrated from examples in the history of the BBC.

Frequently give brief but precise examples

 You need to give examples of programmes. So when referring to Benn’s statement that public broadcasting should help people to adjust to « enormous changes », give a couple of examples . You might perhaps mention programmes to help integration of immigrants https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apna_Hi_Ghar_Samajhiye , science programmes such as Tomorrow’s World

( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomorrow%27s_World ), the later BBC Micro project ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBC_Micro ). Or you could speak of the Open University, which was to be founded in 1969.

Benn recognizes the validity of « inform, educate, entertain », but suggests an additional principle: helping people adapt to a change. He will not be the only person suggesting a fourth principle. The Annan report, in 1977, will suggest “enrichment—to enlarge people’s interests, to convey to them new choices and possibilities in life.” These suggestions serve to remind us that « inform educate entertain » constituted not a universal truth but a specific choice by Reith at a specific time. The three main principles, in addition, did not retain the same meaning as the decades went by : Reith’s view of « entertainment » tended to be of a very paternalistic tone, which was much less evident in later decades.

Benn criticizes broadcasting for always showing the same kind of people. He implies that an elitist group of voices dominate the airwaves. In the history of the BBC, different creative teams have occasionally had success opening up the airwaves to a wider set of voices, anc you could mention this. The article here ( https://journals.openedition.org/rfcb/7681 ) gives several examples (but note that these are occasinal attempts, which run counter to the general trend).

Benn shows concern that the end of the old-fashioned BBC style of the neutral presente, showing no emotion of any sort, while necessary, may be giving way to presenters who influence viewers and listeners unduly. He does not give examples of the commentators in current affairs he is uneasy about. Robin Day is the best-known example (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_Day#Journalistic_career ) . He more or less invented the aggressive TV interview, which in later years became standard fare.



Evolution is 1) an uncountable noun and 2) almost always reserved for extremely slow change over centuries or milennia.



Sensationalism and to sensationalize are useful words inthis discussion. The use of sensationalizing as an adjective is more than a little clumsy. (*a sensationalizing approach to the news).


The expression Western society takes a capital letter, as it is not simply a geographical detail tellong you where the society is in the world, but a political concept. (So Japan is sometimes considered a Western society).


The difference between the last and the latest is fairly well explained on this website, which I quote here

The difference is in the future of the sentence.

·        Last implies nothing else will follow. It's the last, and after this it is finished.

·        Latest implies that it is the last to date, which means there could be more to follow.

The examples in J.R.'s post fit the case:

they leave their last will and testament.

They won't be able to leave another will after that. These are their last wishes.

the latest fashions and the latest trends.

These are the fashions and trends of this moment. However, this will change in the future. But at this moment, these are the latest.

However, there are exceptions, as J.R. also points out quite nicely:

As a matter of fact, I think I might prefer the latest book you've read to the last book you've read, although I wouldn't correct anyone for using the latter. A pedantic wiseacre might answer, "What was the last book you read?" by saying, "Last? I hope I'll be reading another soon!", even though the word last is used that way.





 Part three

When I went through a list of questions, above, I omitted one which can be important. « How typical is this document ? » Is Benn coming up with a list of completely original criticisms, or can you comment on each one  by saying « this criticism is similar to those of ... ».

Benn’s criticisms and comments are five in number. It is recommended to comment on them one by one. A very common mistake is to remain vague about what the document is actually saying.

1) Broadcasting can /should go further than the inform/educate/entertain triad.

2) Personal style and opinion of a small groups of current affairs commentators has undue influence.

3) There should be more people, and in particular a greater variety of people (less of an elite) seen and heard in the media.

4) The choice of subjects is often good but much is omitted.

5) The style of presentation has become too sensational and too much influenced by ratings.

You may well not find examples (of similar arguments heard elsewhere, of BBC programmes which illustrate the problem or which tend to show that there were exceptions, etc) for every one of the five elements, but you must look for them and manage two or three.


Note that Benn is mostly speaking of current affairs programmes and news programmes, which he had a lot of experience with as a minister or left wing leader being interviewed. You can see here an example much later, in 2009, which shows what kind of person Benn was. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itvWlKJrc2s )


Students understandably wonder which historical and current figures you are supposed to know a little about. Here is a list of the most well-known political figures in the UK today ? The top ten you must know ; the top twenty, even better.



 Several students said  extremely vague things about the sixties, and didn't mention who was Prime Minister...

Benn was a minister under Harold Wilson. Although the Labour government 1964-70 brought in very important reforms to improve the situation of women and of gays, and began to look timidly at racism, thiese things were not the main public focus for Wilson. He spoke of modernizing socialism "in the white heat of the technological revolution".

The Guardian writes

Focusing on science allowed Wilson to transcend the ideological divisions within Labour, and allowed him (temporarily) to win the support of both the revisionist right and socialist left of his party. This strategy was also specifically designed to appeal to the skilled workers that were thought to be drifting away from Labour, with its emphasis on the importance of formal qualifications and technical expertise.

Wilson later wrote that his aspiration had been to "replace the cloth cap [with] the white laboratory coat as the symbol of British labour", and his Scarborough speech went some way to achieving this, with one trade union leader reported to have observed that Wilson had "captured science for the Labour Party".

This was a period when dozens of new universities were opened, and unemployment was extremely low. Plastics cars and engineering factories were becoming  the focus of the economy. This is very much what Benn is referring to when he speaks of changes.

Revision of  Britain since 1945 here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTCSXG2idxo

and here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxuFAd64vY0

[1] If you simple repeat the word « constituent », without briefly defining the word, the jury will conclude that you do not know the meaning of the word : not good.

[3]  Benn’s speech does not easily give you opportunities to show knowledge about the early years of the BBC, but it is good to find occasional reasons to do so.

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 :