Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Dictionaries in exam

 I gave wrong information in class. In the civilisation exam, noone may bring dictionaries. In translation exams, if your first language is, say, Italian, you may bring a French-Italian translation dictionary only.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Suggested commentary on speech by Tony Benn (p 16)


There are many different ways of doing a good text commentary on this passage – this is just one.

It is important to bear in mind that the purpose of the exam is to evaluate the series of the classes on the history of the BBC. If you do not show you know the history, it is impossible to succeed in the exam.


This passage is an extract from a speech by Tony Benn. Tony Benn was a Member of Parliament and here is speaking to the people of the town he represents. It is not an electoral speech – there was to be no election for some time : rather it is made up of general reflections on the role of public service broadcasting in a modern society.

Tony Benn was a leader of the left wing of the Labour Party, and so we would expect his priorities to be public service and working-class people, and, as we shall see, a criticism of elitism will be made in this speech.

By 1968, television was becoming ever more common in ordinary homes, as radio had been for some decades. Since 1964, there had been three television channels – two run by the BBC and one commercial channel making its money from advertising, while the BBC had a monopoly on radio broadcasting. At the time Benn speaks, then, the BBC controls most broadcasting in the country, a situation very different from that of today.

Benn begins by explaining what he is not doing. He is not defending the idea of direct government control of the BBC or other broadcasting, (l2) and he is not, in this speech looking at the question of whether the BBC favours one political party too much (l4). At this time, direct government control of the media was a characteristic of Eastern Bloc countries known as « communist » : it is no doubt because Benn has some communist ideas that he is keen to underline that he does not support such direct control.

Tony Benn deals, in the rest of the article, mostly with two questions about broadcasting which have always been important when looking at the BBC. He looks at the question of elitism concerning presence on air – do we always hear only elite people on the radio and the TV ?  And he also considers the treatment of news and current affairs – is it not slanted and distorted by particular priorities ? Both of these questions are connected to a major topic in discussions about the BBC : who does the corporation serve ? Is it really « for the people » as Hendy suggests it can be in his People’s History of the BBC  ? Or it the BBC part of the establishment, and essentially serving the interests of the elite ?

The first of these questions – elitism – has often been at the centre of conversations about the BBC. People have sometimes considered elitist the concentration, especially before the Second World War, on high culture, and a distaste for popular culture. But here Benn looks at a related question – why does it seem that we alway hear the same voices on the BBC ? Before 1939, there was even a committee whose job was to survey radio and make sure that regional or working class accents were not broadcast. John Reith’s opinion was that ordinary people should not be heard on air.

Throughout the history of the BBC there have been people who, like Benn, considered it essential to make a wide selection of popular voices available on air. Olive Shapley’s work on documentaries, or Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger’s radio ballads were examples of this, as were some of the best known productions for « The Wednesday Play », where working class people were at the centre of the stories.

The second question of what influences the « angle » or the viewpoint of news has also been much discussed (lines 45 to 49 and elsewhere). Benn suggests that the personal touch of a small number of presenters, and the influence of audience figures (l 42), lead to important subjects being sensationalized and simplified, and some key subjects never being the subject of programmes (l40). He is worried about the future of BBC news and current affairs and suspects it will not carry out what he sees is its mission – to inform and educate citizens as widely as possible.

Although Benn expresses these criticisms of the BBC, he does so at the same time as recognizing that the BBC has been an immense success (lines 19-23). As John Reith had planned from the beginning, it has been a major force in informing, education and entertaining countless millions of people. Finally, Benn suggests that a fourth aim be added to the three mentioned in the official aims of the BBC in its royal charter : he suggests that helping people adapt to rapid social change should be a priority, too (l13).  It is not clear if he is speaking mostly of technological change, which has been accelerating for many decades, or if he is referring to social change – attitudes to women, or to ethnic and sexual  minorities, for example. In either case, the BBC has certainly made important contributions. Its computer literacy project in the early 1980s or its production of numerous science documentaries could be taken as examples of helping adapt to technological change. The BBC was also very much involved in the Open University. As for social change, the BBC programmes for immigrants from the 1960s on, the founding of the Asian Network on radio, or the attempts to encourage equal treatment for homosexuals through their representation on Eastenders or other shows, might be mentioned


 A little behind schedule this week. Last corrections later Today.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Thème : last passage of 2023

 I am in the process of working through your translations of the passage by Kerangal. Note that for the last passage of 2023, by Silvain, I will not be able to comment on your translations. We will simply work through it in class on the 6th.  The following passages I should be able, once again, to comment on by mail.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

The BBC from the 1980s

 You will find here the MP3 recording of the tenth class in the series on the history of the BBC.

Just click here

And the accompanying slides are here 

There will be more important material on the BBC ont his blog in a few days's time.

M1 MEEF Ireland - first class

 You will find here the Mp3 recording of the first class on Ireland.

Just click here 

And the accompanying slides are here 

I am sure noone has forgotten that the homework assignment is due on the 18th December.

Just click here

Linking words/mots de liaison

 Students may be interested to see this article, which I wrote  32 years ago!


Monday, November 20, 2023

Room for M2 seminar Wednesday 22 November

 Cettse semaine, les salles pour mes autres cours n'ont pas changé, mais le séminaire M2 1970s aura lieu mercredi 15h30 en salle L306.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

The BBC - criticizing and reforming the BBC today

 Here is the MP3 recording of last week's class. It was mostly concerned with the BBC today and the criticism it faces concerning its news and current affairs output. We also covered in some details questions of funding, and the present policy of the Conservative government with regard to the BBC.

just click here

PS: this week we will be looking at the extract from the speech by Denis Potter

Sunday, November 12, 2023

All L3 students: speeches to study for L3 orals (civilisation)

 L3 students will know that in the second semester you will be following a series of classes about influential speeches from the last few centuries in the anglophone world. We will study context and analyze parts of the speeches in class, and then for the oral exam you will be asked to comment on a shortish extract.

These classes do not start until well into January. However, some serious students asked if they could see the documents we will be working on. Here they are

This booklet contains the first series of speeches.

This booklet contains the second series of speeches

M1 MEEF The UK Education system explained

 I am sure you remember that one of the themes on the programme for the CAPES is "école et société".

So you will have to have a working knowledge of the education system in some anglophone countries. In addition, your homework assignment this semester (see below) requires that you be familair with the UK system.

You will find here a recording of my lecture on the UK education system today (well, in 2022). It lasts just over an hour and a half.

Just click here.

And you will find the PowerPoint which illustrated it.

Just click here.

M2 seminar 2. Social and cultural change in the UK in the 1970s


You will find here the MP3 recording of the second seminar. The first part is instructions about the research paper/ « mini dossier ».

Just click here

The accompanying slides are here

The BBC in the years before the first Thatcher government


You will find here the MP3 recording of the class on the history of the BBC in the years before 1979.

Just click here.

The accompanying slides are here.

You will find here a recording of my comments about the text commentary concerning the 1968 speech by Tony Benn.

Just click here.

M1 MEEF homework assignment

Compare and contrast the following documents, showing how they shed light on change sin the UK education system.

This is your homework assignment, which you must send me by the 18th of December, and which is the marked exercise which counts for your first semester "civilisation britannique" module.

Just click here

I will post here very soon a recording about the UK education system which will help you, and we will be covering some of this in class. You will find on YouTube some useful videos about the history of UK education.

Rooms etc for this week


Rooms etc for this week


Mardi L2 10h30   F510

Mardi L3 13h30 L214


Mercredi Thème  9h F508

Mercredi L3 10h30 L207

Mercredi : séminaire M2. No class this week, the class will be replaced on December 13.

Mercredi M1 MEEF civi. No class this week. Watch this blog for further important  announcements, and your homework assignment (which you will have around a month to complete).

Montreal : the Basilica of Notre Dame


One of my favourite pastimes is visiting churches. Sometimes these are in anglophone places, so I occasionally share them here. Here is, from my other blog,  a church visit, from Montreal, which is a bilingual place. The Basilica of Notre Dame is pretty impressive.


Wednesday, November 08, 2023

Conférence (à Paris et en ligne)






Les Préraphaélites,

souffle nouveau sur l’art victorien


Gérard Hocmard

Professeur de Chaire supérieure honoraire


LUNDI 20 NOVEMBRE 2023 à 18 h 00 (accueil à partir de 17 h 45)

Lycée Henri IV, 23 rue Clovis, 75005 Paris


Inscription obligatoire pour assister à la conférence sur place.

Une preuve de votre inscription vous sera envoyée la veille, elle devra être présentée à l’entrée du lycée avec votre pièce d’identité.

Demande d’inscription à envoyer à : afgb.resa-conf@orange.fr


Lien Zoom pour une connexion en visio-conférence :



Diverse questions concerning the BBC classes

1) I mentioned briefly in class the magazine "Spare Rib". Here is more information:

Spare Rib, the most influential women’s liberation magazine of the 1970s



2) Several students said they would like to practise their text commentary before the exam. If you would like to know how well you are doing, write a commentary on the following document,  and send it to me by email (john dot mullen at univ-rouen.fr )

BBC Radio 3 at 70: not just Proms and pizzicati

The Guardian, September 2016

It was nearly named after a transmitter. When the BBC was looking for a name for its new music and arts radio station in 1946, for one epoch-changing moment, the Droitwich Programme was a contender. However, a compromise name was found; as the third BBC radio service after the Light and Home services, it was called the Third Programme. It was born at 6pm on 29 September 1946, and its first cries were a light-hearted guide on How to Listen, a talk on world affairs, Bach harpsichord music, Monteverdi madrigals and a new work by Benjamin Britten. Something old, something new, something surprising.

In that week’s Radio Times, the BBC’s director general, Sir William Haley, had set out the Third’s stall to the nation: “presenting the great classical repertoire in music and drama, and so far as they are broadcastable, in literature and the other arts … it will seek every evening to do something that is culturally satisfying and significant.”

The Third Programme shared a certain distaste for popular culture, and expected its audience to come prepared with a level of prior knowledge. For this it was both admired and mocked. One contemporary cartoon showed two working men sitting by the fire listening to the radio. One says to the other: “The pizzicato for the double basses in the coda seems to me to want body, Alf.” Unfair, even then, but you can see how a reputation for chilliness grew up.

Yet from almost the first, while classical music was crucial, it was just one part of the mix. Jazz, poetry and drama were at least as core to the schedule, with new commissions helping the career of the up and coming

From the beginning, the Third and its successor from 1967, BBC Radio 3, had a far more promiscuous and pioneering approach to what constituted culture than its caricatures might suggest. The new, the shocking, the obscure have always rubbed shoulders with the established classics – which themselves were once shocking – quite happily. What changed long ago, though, is the attitude to the audience: love of music and culture, and a sense of curiosity, have replaced the need to come equipped with technical knowledge. Although we do try to help with that with our range of online resources.

Ever since the coronation, commentators have been predicting the death of radio. It was going to be doomed first by TV, then hi-fi, then the internet and now by streaming services. But radio remains a portable, high quality sound‑delivery system; with a tiny investment in equipment, listeners can enjoy a curated choice of both the new and familiar. There is every sign, judging from the last Rajar radio audience figures including our own, which were the highest in five years, that there is plenty of life left in this oldest of broadcasting technologies.

What Radio 3 does is a great example of using public money – the licence fee – as venture capital to expand and enhance classical and other music and push boundaries in words and sound. It is investment in the future of culture and an exploration of the human condition as well as a celebration and investigation of past pioneers. And it allows us to surprise and take the audience to places they never knew they may like. Yes, some of it seems niche, but that’s how innovation starts.


If you would like me to comment on your work, send it to me before midnight on the 20th of November. (Do not send me notes, but a completed commentary only).


 3) I will try to find a moment to write up an example of one of the commentaries I have presented orally in class. Some people said this would be useful.