Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Thème oral agrégation interne

 Important information in these extracts from a recent jury report.

On the question of translating “ordonnances”, I saw that the jury report did not recommend this, but translating “prescriptions” is quite correct: see this extract from the museum website:

agrégation interne

 I contacted the rectorat yesterday because many people had not received their « convocations ». They told me that there had been a mistake, but that these messages would finally be sent out yesterday. Hope it all happened in time and that many of you will be in L311 at 4 for comprehension fun.

Ireland England and Ulster

 Vernon Bogdanor is a well know political analyst, who I have described elsewhere as « conservative but fair-minded ».  He has recently produced this lecture on Ireland which I recommend for those who want to understand some of the main dynamics of the colonization and decolonization in this country.


Monday, November 28, 2022

Examen janvier séminaire WW1 M1

 Il y aura (problème de calendrier) deux examens séparés.

Les quelques étudiants de MEEF qui ont suivi le séminaire Première Guerre auront l'examen le mercredi 11 janvier de 15h à 18h salle A402

Les autres étudiants, de LES auront l'examen le mardi 10 janvier de 10h à 13h.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Agrégation interne 30 novembre 9h à 11h salle A506 Didactique

 Je ne suis pas certain que l'information ait bien circulé.

(Cours donc en même temps que les cours de thème cette semaine).

Advanced translation/ thème agrégation et M2: passage from Brisac

   This translation will stay on the blog for two weeks, so do download it if you need it . If you just chanced on the blog, the original passage translated can be found here .

“What’s your favourite animal?” Eugenio asked, as we were walking along in the dark[1]. It was the day before Christmas Eve.

“The[2] koala bear,[3] the squirrel and the otter,” I said. “The koala because of how it clings[4] onto the Eucalyptus tree[5] with its paws, and because it lives near the kangaroos. The squirrel because of the nuts: there is nothing as sweet as giving someone a nut,[6] I always say. And I don’t know why I chose the otter. Because its name sounds ugly and touching, and because of the water.”

I was lying. I was more imagining[7] an animal like an armadillo.

Eugenio had slipped his arm through the little invisible loop[8]  formed by my body and my arm. He was looking worried. “Do you think Queen Elizabeth has had[9] a happy life?” he murmured.[10]

I was about to[11] come out with a petty answer: who’s been talking to you[12] about that ancient mummy[13] with the hat?[14] It’s that father of yours[15] who’s been talking to you about her!

“Fairly happy, I think, but she’s been let down[16] by her children,” I answered

It was wantonly[17] mean[18] of me to bring these two expressions out together: “let down” and “children” and Eugenio shrank back. I felt ashamed.

“We’d better get our skates on” he said. “We’re late, mummy, get your skates on!”[19]

“That expression if horrid and I’m sure Queen Elizabeth would never say it!” I replied.

Queen Elizabeth is our idol, our whipping boy, our sphinx and our scapegoat.

“She hasn’t had[20] a happy life,” I said, finally, “because she didn’t really want one”.

Such dignity made him marvel[21]. One thing led to another in my mind and it reminded me of some other Queen who had snapped the elastic in her underwear and died because of it. She froze to death in the snow because she would not get up from the stone bench she had retreated to to save her dignity. I told Eugenio this story: dying of cold on an icy stone bench is the epitome of dignity, I explained, suddenly proud of how I was educating my son.[22] But Eugenio snickered: “romanticism is blinding you again, mummy, “it’s not that at all, the story. The Queen cried and screamed and they had ten of the strongest men in the kingdom come out. They tore up the stone bench and carried it to the palace…”.[23]


[1] « By night » is a little too poetic.

[2] This is the definite article to speak of a type in general. It reminds me of examples such as « The modern secretary muts be prepared to learn how to use new software every few years ». Or « The British spy in the 21st century is very different from the image we see in James Bond films ». This definite article is the best choice here, but one could put « Koala bears, squirrels and otters ». An indefinite article here is a mistake.

[3] The koala is not a bear, but the expression is common.

[4] There are two reasons for this translation. First of all, having more verbs in the English version is always a good thing. Secondly, « geste » only sometimes translates as « gesture ». The French word is far far wider in application (we all remember « les gestes barrière » of the covid years).

[5] Although not all Eucalyptus exude gum, I think « gum tree » was a good translation here. (wikipedia: Eucalyptus is one of three similar genera that are commonly referred to as "eucalypts", the others being Corymbia and Angophora. Many species, though by no means all, are known as gum trees because they exude copious kino from any break in the bark (e.g., scribbly gum).)

[6] Or « How sweet is the gift of a nut ». The narrator is being mock-literary. You will remember that the main structures for exclamations are "How adjectival that it ! » and « What a noun that is ! ». In conversation « that is so adjectival » is also common.

[7] The +ing is highly recommended, since this imagining was a background process during the conversation.

[8] « Handle » is not very good as handles can be all shapes and sizes – for example door handles.

[9] Not preterite, since the passage was written while she was alive.

[10] A good time to revise a few verbs for speaking with litte volume. To whisper (without using your voice) to mutter (half-privately, becaus eyou are in a bad mood), to murmur (in a low voice, perhaps emotionally).

[11] Or « on the verge of ».

[12] This talking took place at an unspecified moment in the past, and is not seen as a finished process : this is why « has been talking » is the best structure. « who has told you about her », is incorrect because it would suggest th efather had informed his son about the existence of the queen (a finished process, then). Remember if I leave my pack of cigarettes with fiteen cigarettes in it on the table and leave for a few minutes, and whne I come back there are only twelve cigarettes, I might exclaim « Someone has been smoking my cigarettes ! » However, if I leave my packet with only three cigarettes in it and when I come back there are none at all, i am likely to exclaim « Someone has smoked (all my cigarettes). If the sentence allows you to see the end of the action, then there is no « -ing ». I recommend (again) Anne Trevise’s book Le Prétérit en anglais.

[13] Because « mummy » also means « maman », I have added « ancient » to help the reader.

[14] Someone tried « hatted mummy » - why not ? or indeed « behatted mummy », but we may be getting too literary for this passage.

[15] This structure expresses annoyance, just as the word « encore » does in the French.

[16] « Disappointed » is nearly as good.

[17] Or « irresponsibly »

[18] This is probably the only word which really fits, thoughh I suppose « nasty » is conceivable.

[19] I am not sure how old the child is. The following pages show he is not old enough to walk to school on his own, and loves to be taken to Macdonalds. « Mummy » would suggest under eight or nine years old, so I am going to keep it. « Mum » could suggest older, but family traditions vary.

[20] Not « She didn’t have » because the passage was written while she was alive.

[21] Or « left him wondering », or « gave him food for thought ».

[22] A verbal structure is best. If you ise a noun structure, the word « educational » is acceptable, but not « pedagogical ». Like many words of Greek origin, this last is reserved for intellectual discourse.

[23] And you thought your mother was annoying.

Tuesday and Wednesday classes

 Tuesday we have our first  agrégation class on oral comprehension and improvised translation ("thème oral"). It is tailored for agrégation interne people, but the externes are welcome. It is in room L311.

On Wednesday translation is in A402 at 9.

James Cook is in A208 at 10.30.

and the 1970s seminar is in A402 at 3.

“Shared history” and slavery


Saturday, November 26, 2022

M1 MEEF civilisation britannique: Jewish immigration and Irish immigration

 The Jewish and the Irish communities in the UK are groups it is important to know something about.

The Jewish community in Britain like in other countries, is very varied, but this series looks at one group of Jews, in Manchester  


This documentary, made in the 1980s and entitled "The Irish in England" tells an interesting part of the history of Irish people in the UK.


L3 Cultures populaires

As you know there is no class this week. We have two classes left: on the 8th and on the 15th of December.

I hope your homework assignments are going well. I think everyone understands the new system now - if your homework assignment does not get more than ten, you may take a second chance exam in January. Concerning the first semester, nothing happens in June. 

You will find here the video of my paper on antiracist songs, which we saw only half of in class. My paper begins after about 21 minutes of  this video seminar. It is 20 minutes long.


This paper, in French, looks at another question of how to study popular music : what is the meaning of different activities connected to popular music? In this paper, we look at the activity of singing along at a concert.


Finally, this article, “What has popular music ever done for us?” looks at 1970s music in Britain, and why people needed it. 


And you will find here the recordings of important parts of the two classes we have had on popular music:



Lecture: a Hundred Years of the BBC

A hundred years of the BBC! If anyone wants to listen to the (50 minute) history lecture I gave on this subject in English in Lisbon last month, you will find the Mp3 audio file here : http://www.jcmullen.fr/1122lisbonfinal.mp3 

The accompanying PowerPoint is here http://www.jcmullen.fr/1122lisbonfinal.pdf 

The talk was actually entitled "The BBC, Public Service, and Science Programming" and strolled over the entire hundred years asking "Who was it good for?"

Mise à jour Emploi du temps agrégation deuxième semestre

 Il y a eu 4 ou 5 rajouts/ correction. La dernière version sera toujours disponible ici 


Entr'aide : étudiants dans le besoin

L'hiver arrive et certain e s des étudiant e s de Rouen n'ont pas ce qu'il faut pour vivre décemment. Si vous en faites partie, n'oubliez pas qu'un peu d'aide est disponible. Si vous avez l'argent qu'il vous faut, n'hésitez pas à aider un peu en répondant à l'appel ci-dessous (du service de médecine préventive).

Bonjour à toutes et tous,

Le Service Universitaire de Médecine Préventive et de Promotion de la Santé propose pour les étudiants en situation de précarité une boutique santé sociale. Cette boutique leur permet d’obtenir des produits d’hygiènes ainsi que des vêtements, gratuitement et sans conditions d’évaluations.

Aujourd’hui, nous faisons appel à votre générosité, pour un appel aux dons. En effet, nous sommes à la recherche de vêtements chauds (pulls, manteaux, bonnets, gants, écharpes, chaussettes etc) et couettes, couvertures, draps pour passer le froid de l’hiver qui approche. Les couettes, couvertures seront soumis à un lavage par l’association : les papillons blancs. Nos besoins en produits d’hygiènes sont également très importants et seront les bienvenus (dentifrice, brosse à dents, papier toilette, gel douche, shampoing, serviettes hygiéniques, déodorant, essuie-tout, mouchoirs, lessive etc).

Si vous souhaitez participer à cette action de solidarité, vous pouvez venir déposer vos dons au service de médecine préventive le lundi 05/12 vendredi 09/12 de 9h à 17h. Le service est situé au 1er étage de la Maison de l’Université à Mont Saint Aignan.

Nous tenons encore une fois à vous remercier pour votre générosité depuis tant d’années, permettant le bon fonctionnement de cette boutique santé sociale, apportant de l’aide à de nombreux étudiants.

Si besoin d’informations supplémentaires, vous pouvez contacter Ludovic Duchaud, coordinateur des projets de santé au SUMPPS, à l’adresse suivante : ludovic.duchaud1@univ-rouen.fr.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Cours culture populaire

 Today’s class will be shorter, and there is no class next week as I am at a conference in Strasbourg on popular music.


I will put on here links to a video class I gave a couple of years back.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Advanced translation French-English/ M2 et agrégation, thème, passage from Mauriac.

  This translation will stay on the blog for two weeks, so do download it if you need it . If you just chanced on the blog, the original passage translated can be found here .


Suggested translation Mauriac[1]


After the children had left[2], Xavier Frontenac watched his sister-in-law once more[3] : she still looked hostile.[4] How might[5] he have offended her ? He had spoken of[6] dutiful women, of which she was the perfect embodiment[7]. He did not understand how such praise[8] could exasperate a widow such as she. The poor man had gravely praised[9] the nobility of sacrifice, and had declared that nothing in the world was as beautiful as a woman faithful to her deceased husband and devoted heart and soul to her children. In his eyes she only existed for the Fontenac offspring. He never thought of his sister-in-law as a solitary young woman who could[10] feel sadness or[11] despair. Her fate[12] was a matter of complete indifference to him. Provided that she did not re-marry[13] and she brought up Michel’s children, he reflected no further on her case. This was what Blanche could not forgive him for. It was not that she felt any regret :[14] on her husband’s decease she had weighed up[15] the sacrifice she was called upon to make and had accepted it ; nothing would have made her go back on her decision. However,[16] since she was most pious, in a somewhat arid and pernickety way, she had never believed herself able, but for God’s help, to find the strength to live in this way ; for she was a passionate[17] young woman with a fiery heart. That evening, if Xavier had had eyes to see, he would have felt pity for her, left amidst the books scattered on the carpet[18] and the untidiness of the forsaken nest, a tragic mother, with eyes of jade, and a bilious, furrowed face, where some remnants of beauty still resisted the wrinkles  and the weight loss. Her hair, already grey and a little untidy, made her an unkempt appearance[19] as of a woman who no longer hopes for more. Her black blouse, buttoned up in front , emphasized her thin shoulders and small bust. Her whole being  betrayed[20] the tiredness, the exhaustion of the mother devoured[21] alive by her offspring. She asked not[22] to be admired or pitied, but to be understood. The blind lack of concern of her brother-in-law  caused her to be beside herself with rage, and she became brutal[23] and unfair. She regretted it and beat her breast[24] in penance as soon as he had left, but all her good resolutions came to nothing when she saw once more the expressionless face of that small man who could not see[25] and before whom she felt non-existent, that man who had her marked down[26] for oblivion.[27]


François Mauriac Le Mystère Frontenac

[1] The style is definitely literary, and there are many places where we must avoid the everyday word and use the more literary or formal one – « Provided that » rather than « as long as », for example.

[2] Remember the preference of English for verbal constructions.

[3]Once more » or « once again” are better here than just « again » becaus ethey make for a more literary tone.

[4] Or « she had not been mollified ». Or « her anger had not lessened ».

[5] If you were tempted by « would » re-read the whole section on modals in your grammar book.

[6] Note that « talked about » is not as good, since it is less formal.

[7] Or « of which she was the epitome » .

[8] Here, « praise » is an uncountable noun. It can occasionally be countable, as in, « they were singing your praises », but in general it is uncountable.

[9] Notice that « insisting heavily » is French, really.

[10] « Could » is better than « might » here, since we are in radical modality : it is her capacity to feel, not the probability that she might feel, which is in question.

[11] Although this list has only two items, the items cannot be joined, as they can in French, only by a comma.

[12] Or « What became of her ».

[13] « Re-marry » is more formal than « marry again » or « get married again ».

[14] Be careful: the meaning of the French is that she felt zero regret, but the literary style led some students astray.

[15] Not « measured ».

[16] « But » is not formal enough.

[17] Somebody tried « intense », but this is not correct. If we say someone is « intense » it is a rather pejorative comment, meaning that they invest a lot of emotion in matters which should not involve so much feeling.

[18] Not « the rug ». A rug is small enough to carry under one arm.

[19] One cannot say here «  a neglected woman « , since that would not refer to her appearance.

[20] These imperfect tenses in French are just background description, and so are translated by the preterite. Certainly, you must not use « would », which is for habitual action.

[21] « Eaten alive » is good. Someone trued « eaten up alive » but « up » generally implies « completely », and here the process is not finished.

[22] This structure is more literary than « she did not ask… »

[23] I am realizing that « violent » in English involves physically hitting someone, whereas « violent » in French does not.

[24] The sense is figurative, and this is a fixed expression.

[25] Someone tried « eyeless ». This is an extremely rare literary word which means literally without eyes. The only place I have ever seen it is in Milton’s impressive poem, Samson Agonistes https://www.bartleby.com/4/602.html

[26] Or « who consigned her ».

[27] «Who doomed her to nothingness » is good.