It is very important to be aware that the UK is a Protestant country, and that Catholics are a minority, and until 150 years ago were legally restricted in many ways. This informs all English and Scottish artistic and cultural expressions and all of its history, from the 16th century onwards.
Culturally and historically, Britain is Christian, with a strong minority of Hinduism and Islam.
Catholics are in the minory and still have some legal restrictions against them in public office.
Still a lot of prejudice against Catholics, and Protestants, in some places.
Protestants are divided into Church of England (or Episcopalian Church of Scotland, and the Church of Wales), and Nonconformists.
Nonconformists are Methodists, Wesleyan, Unitarian, Quaker, Pentecostalists etc.
All the other faiths: Judaism, Buddhism, Sikhism, also Pagans.
Religion does not rule the state, only Sundays have occasional Protestant programmes on TV, but these are old-fashioned and usually derided by non-Anglicans and those under 50.
Only religious holidays are Easter and Christmas Day.
The other national religions are, of course, football (soccer) and cricket.
Upper: The old aristocracy, old families with inherited land and money, income comes from investments and rents.
Upper-middle: The Royal Family, senior government officials, armed services.
Middle: The professions, academics, owners of businesses.
Lower-middle: The artisans, tradesmen, people who work in businesses.
Working class: The manual laborers, the poor, people of little education and no chance of improving their situation.
Discuss the differences between the names ‘Great Britain’, ‘the United Kingdom’, and ‘the British Isles’, with illustrations from geography, culture or history.
- the British Isles: England, Scotland, Wales (Great Britain), Ireland, Northern Ireland and the smaller islands (all islands)
- Great Britain: England, Scotland, Wales (only the biggest island)
- the United Kingdom: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (biggest island and Northern Ireland)
- racially: Ireland, Wales and Highland Scotland: people of the Celtic race – England, lowland Scotland: people of Germanic origin
--> today these differences are blurred though not completely disappeared
- language: in Celtic areas: Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic and Welsh – in Germanic areas: Germanic dialects
- different economic, social and legal systems though they all have the same government
- musical instruments: harp = emblem of Wales and Ireland, bagpipes are typically Scottish
- characteristics: stereotypes of national character: the Irish: great talkers – the Scots: careful with money – the Welsh: renowned for their singing ability
- names: Mac/Mc: Scottish/Irish, O’: typically Irish, certain surnames (Davis, Price, Reese, Evans, Jones,..): Welsh, Smith: common in England and Scotland
- sports: sby from the Caribbean supports the West Indies in a match between England and the West Indies, but supports England when in a match against Italy.
Outline the internal differences within two different types of news media in Britain.
1) Newspapers can be divided in two types based on their size: broadsheet and tabloid. Broadsheet or quality papers cater for the better educated readers.
- The Daily Telegraph is the most conservative of the broadsheets.
- The Times is an institution, but now has a sullied reputation through its owner, Rupert Murdoch.
- The Daily Mail is another conservative paper, but “dumed down” and aimed at women.
- The Financial Times is quite obviously the voice of finance and the banks.
- The Independent is centre-left and stands for truth and objectivity.
- The Guardian is left-wing and has a tradition of criticizing authority. It is also notorious for its spelling errors.
The tabloids, or red-tops, sell to much larger readership. They contain far less print and write in a simpler style of English. The stories concentrate less on politics, and more on sex and scandal.
- The Daily Mirror is left-wing but also reactionary.
- The Sun used is a right-wing paper (although they supported New Labour under Tony Blair in 1997) and known for it’s page 3-girls: a picture of a scarcely dressed girl on page 3. It is conservative and it uses a very simple language.
Regional newspapers tend to be tabloid rather than broadsheet, and aim for the middle range of readers. They have a strong focus on regional news and national figures only have importance if they have a regional connection.
2) The BBC has five different radio stations in Britain, and the BBC World Service broadcasts news and other programs in loop almost all over the world.
- Radio 1 has a long tradition of being cutting edge and trendy. Lately, different genres of music have retired into their seperated niches, which lead to evenings filled with pounding techno music or boring dance tracks. During the day moslty mainstream music gets played, along with meaningless chat. Still, Radio 1 has a few very good presenters, such as Steve Lamacq, Jo Whiley and Zane Lowe.
- Radio 2 is strictly reserved for adults. Although it recently changed its image and the music can be good, it still has a reputation of being radio for boring old people.
- Radio 3 plays mainly classical and jazz music, and is aimed at the intellectual listeners.
- Radio 4’s motto is “intelligent speech” and this translates in its various programmes commentating on and discussing the news and politics and documentaries. Besides that, it also produces excellent drama, comedy and quiz shows. Several cult shows, such as I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue and Dead Ringers get reruns on Radio 4.
- Radio 5 is the sports channel, with coverage of all types of sports matches. For some reason, this channel is also available in Belgium on medium wave.
- The BBC also has several more specialized digital radio stations. Radio 1Xtra, for example, only plays r&b and hiphop music, whereas 6Music concentrates on alternative and indie music.
- Local BBC radio stations are typically bland and boring unless you live in that particular area.
Of course there is a whole range of commercial radio stations, going from strictly sport stations over more mainstream music to all kinds of classical music.
BBC British Broadcasting Corporation: no adverts, very big cultural tradition – stability continuity, reliable (but: bit boring) ; fantastic education
I-TV Independent television (lower class)
More trendy, quality less good
Channel4 Original independent arts channel (eighties)
Whole operas etc. ; still very important
Local TV stations Gardening programs etc.
Discuss how British food and eating has changed in the 20th & 21st centuries.
- During WWII: blockades by German U-boats made it difficult for food supplies to arrive by sea from the US, and so the government began to ration the food the British population had to eat. Rationing meant restricting the expensive and hard-to-produce foodstuffs (fats, sugars, exotic fruit). This made healthy eating unavoidable.
--> British society turned into a canteen environment
--> children were given vitamin supplements
--> the culture of home preserving was strengthened
- 1950s and 1960s: changes in British attitudes towards foreign food:
--> American burger bars came to Britain and were wildly popular
--> Italian trattoria and other restaurants introduced the British to spaghetti and red wine
--> Elizabeth David: introduced the British to lemons, garlic and French food
--> Indian restaurants grew more popular (curry)
Also since the 1950s: cooking instructors on TV (Delia Smith, Nigella Lawson, Ainsley Harriott, Rick Stein and Jamie Oliver)
- 1970s: vegetarian and health food became fashionable
- 1980s: the British started eating fast food and ready meals. Cookery classes began to disappear from British education.
- 1990s: food scares (BSE, salmonella from eggs, E.coli). This was the decade when the environment told the British that enough was enough, that man’s exploitation of natural resources had gone too far for food safety.
What makes the British laugh? Discuss by giving examples from music, film, TV, literature or radio.
There are many genres in which British sense of humour is displayed: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, radio, TV, film, stage and oral humour and playground jokes.
The particular British pre-occupations in humour are surrealism and the absurd, irony and sarcasm, satire, sex and love of language.
- oral humour, playground jokes: word play is important. Playground jokes are familiar to all Brits, still funny in a nostalgic way and often surprising. ‘Catching someone out’ is an important concept in British humour: it is not cruel but gentle and teasing.
- question and answer jokes: humour lies in the contrast between the absurd idea/image and the deliberate misunderstanding with the meaning of a word.
- knock-knock jokes: a play on words (words have 2 meanings but the same sound). Knock-knock jokes are a national institution, they are important in the school playground because they require communication and participation and they are inclusive.
- tongue twisters
- fictions: 3 main areas on which social comedy draws:
1) where the characters are the joke: e.g. The Lucia novels, by E.F.Benson
2) where the style/genre is the joke: e.g. Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons
3) where the language is the joke: e.g. P.G. Woodhouse (comic novelist, exaggerates effects of the English language)
- non-fiction: autobiographical books of G. Durell, Gamesmanship books of S. Potter, How to keep Dinosaurs of R. Mash (fantasy presented as fact)
- poetry: limericks, nonsense rhymes (considered to be children’s entertainment), satirical poetry (J. Betjeman)
- radio: The Goons (anarchic response to petty restrictions, rules, law and order, rebelling against the moralistic restrictions of the BBC), political satire, radio quiz shows
- TV: ‘That was the week that was’ (lampooning the Establishment), satirical programmes (Spitting Image: using rubber puppets to attack the politicians), ‘Have I Got News For You’ (cruelty in British humour), British sitcom (The Good Life, Yes Minister, Fawlty Towers, The Goodies, The Office, The Two Ronnies, Little Britain), sketch shows (Morecambe & Wise)
-stage: ‘No Sex Please We’re British’ (the British farce = a constructed situation, relies on timing, and situations full of sexual innuendo), pantomime (a collection or raucous Christmas-time comic sketches wrapped around a traditional fairy story – topical jokes, audience participations, singing and dancing,..)
- film: the Carry On films (made on low budget, with a large team of actors), Monty Python (satire, parody, absurd,.. with serious messages about tolerance), Shaun of the Dead (romantic comedy with zombies, with typical British ordinary urban life as it is lived now, excellent dialogue and plotting), The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
The great triumphs of British humour have in common is language: if the scripts and dialogue aren’t good enough, the humour isn’t good enough. Quality in the use of language is the key to great British humour.
Sample Exam Questions (fall 2007)
Explain the expression “the American Dream.” Discuss all the resonances of the expression.
Believing in ‘the American Dream’ is creating a better life.
The American culture is an aspirational culture, has a can-do mentality: the hope and belief that life in the USA means an improvement, that immigrants to the US can climb up ‘from rags to riches’. Though this ‘dream’ is ambiguous: it’s an illusion as well as an aspiration and ‘rags to riches’ careers are rare. America can be ‘the land of disopportunity’ too (as opposed to ‘the land of opportunity’).
The founding documents which embody this ideology: John Winthrop’s ‘A Model of Christian Charity’, The Declaration of Independence and The Gettysburg Address.
Explain how John Winthrop’s “A Model of Christian Charity” articulates some of the most important tenets of the American ideology.
“Now the only way to avoid this shipwreck, and to provide for our posterity, is to follow the counsel of Micah, to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God. For this end, we must be knit together, in this work, as one man. We must entertain each other in brotherly affection. We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of others’ necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We must delight in each other; make others’ conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, as members of the same body. So shall we keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.
The Lord will be our God, and delight to dwell among us, as His own people, and will command a blessing upon us in all our ways, so that we shall see much more of His wisdom, power, goodness and truth, than formerly we have been acquainted with. We shall find that the God of Israel is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies; when He shall make us a praise and glory that men shall say of succeeding plantations, ‘may the Lord make it like that of New England’.
For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsy with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of all the ways of God, and all professors for God’s sake. We shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us till we be consumed out of the good land whither we are going.”
John Winthrop was the first governor of the colony of Massachusetts, he delivered this speech in 1630.
‘For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill’: America looked upon itself as a model, it believes that it’s exceptional --> exceptionalism: difference from other countries, idealistic values, high aspirations and belief in its own destiny.
‘Unity’: the cohesion of the society is important, they must ‘knit together’, and there lies their strength.
The pilgrimage (errand) and the migration are one: the pilgrimage = a spiritual mission, the migration = building a settlement, materially.
Jeremiads (sermons): a Jeremiad is a complaint about the falling back on those high ideals.
part of the American culture is self-celebratory, but also self-critical (critical of
their politicians, when they do not meet up to the high ideals).
Explain the ideological importance of the Declaration of Independence. Pay special attention to some of its key phrases.
“WHEN in the Course of human Events,
it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation. We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit ofHappiness.”
The ideological importance is that everyone living in the USA is equal, they have rights, among which life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But those truths weren’t self-evident back then: Europe had its Ancienne Regime, in which these values weren’t respected at all, and in the USA there was still slavery and such. “All men” was interpreted differently than we do: it meant white men over 21 years old who went to college and were rich/owned land.
Nature’s God isn’t the same as the Christian God. A certain amount of rationalism was slowly seeping into the community, while before it was only Christian, as indicated by previous texts. But everyone still held a religious view of the world.
It’s a revolutionary text, American splitting themselves off from the United Kingdom. But to explain it they use a philosophical text.
Discuss Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address as a document that expresses some of America’s most fundamental ideological beliefs.
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate – we can not consecrate – we can not hallow – this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our own poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
The Gettysburg Address is a speech made by Lincoln on November 19, 1863 as a dedication of a war cemetery for the victims of the battle at Gettysburg.
The battle of Gettysburg (Pennsylvania) was the turning point in the Civil War between the North and the South on slavery (1861-1865).
‘four score and seven years ago’: the nation was created only 87 years ago at that time.
The meaning of the Civil War is whether the nation can survive, can be held together.
The cemetery will not be forgotten, the cause for which they died must be remembered.
Lincoln sees the Civil War as a ‘new birth of freedom’ (‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’). There’s not a single hostile word for the enemy. The key word in different sentences is ‘dedication’, devotion to the cause
Creation of a sense of American nationalism and unity.
5. Indicate to what extent this excerpt from President Clinton’s 1997 State of the Union echoes some of the most important founding documents of the United States:
“We face no imminent threat, but we do have an enemy -- the enemy of our time is inaction. So, tonight, I issue a call to action -- action by this Congress, action by our states, by our people, to prepare America for the 21st century. Action to keep our economy and our democracy strong and working for all our people; action to strengthen education and harness the forces of technology and science; action to build stronger families and stronger communities and a safer environment; action to keep America the world's strongest force for peace, freedom and prosperity. And above all, action to build a more perfect union here at home. The spirit we bring to our work will make all the difference. We must be committed to the pursuit of opportunity for all Americans, responsibility from all Americans, in a community of all Americans. And we must be committed to a new kind of government -- not to solve all our problems for us, but to give our people -- all our people -- the tools they need to make the most of their own lives. And we must work together.”
It echoes ‘A Model of Christian Charity’ and the Gettysburg Address in saying that all Americans must unite and work together. Reference to “the People”, an echo of the Declaration of Independence.
Describe the early settlements in that part of North America that later became the USA.
- The South:
1607: the first commercial settlers arrived in Jamestown, Virginia. They had tobacco plantations, and imported free laborers and black slaves. In 1619 the first black slaves were imported.
1630s: Lord Baltimore established Maryland as a haven for Catholics/
1660s: settlements grew into the Carolinas and Georgia. The cash crops (crops made to be sold) were rice and indigo.
- New England (north-east of the US):
1620: the Pilgrim Fathers (who broke with the Church of England) arrived with the Mayflower and founded Plymouth plantation.
1630s: the Puritans (who wanted to purify the Church of England) migrated to Massachusetts and established the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Over 20,000 Puritans migrated.
- The Middle Colonies (New York, Pennsylvania):
The earliest communities here were Dutch and Swedish outposts of the fur trade (beavers) that grew into colonies.
The New Netherlands was the colony of the Dutch and in 1664 became New York (cf. Duke of York) after it fell to the English fleet. There was religious and ethnic toleration and diversity of population in New York.
°a Yankee < Jan Kees, a name used to ridicule the Dutch
°Brooklyn < named after a farm of a man named ‘Van Breugelen’
°Harlem < Haarlem
Pennsylvania (‘the forest of Penn’): founded by William Penn in 1681 as a refuge for Quakers. There was overall religious tolerance.
Describe the first wave of immigration and the demographic situation in the colonies on the eve of the War of Independence (1776)
The first wave of immigration was from 1680 to 1776 and the immigrants came from colonies.
- The Scots-Irish (the largest group, about 250,000): their ancestors left, with encouragement of the English, Scotland for Northern Ireland in the 1500s. Mostly indentured servants, hillbillies and rednecks.
° indentured servants: people who weren’t rich enough to pay for their own trip to the US, so their future employer paid for their transport. In return they signed a contract of usu. 7 years, after having worked 7 years for the employer they received their money (‘freedom dues’).
° hillbillies: people in favour of William of Orange, called ‘billieboys’ (William was nicknamed ‘billie’), they lived in the hills.
° rednecks: people who were said to sign an agreement in their own blood to fight the English, they wore a red cloth round their neck.
- German Palatine migration (about 200,000): people from the region of Rhein-Pfalz, which was ravaged by the troops of Louis XIV. They were mostly merchands and farmers who spoke German. They had prosperous, close-knit settlements in the Middle Colonies (esp. Pennsylvania).
- English convicts and paupers, Irish Catholics: mostly single-indentured servants.
- French Huguenots and Jews: they settled port towns and engaged in trade. Their communities nearly disappeared through intermarriage (marriage with English colonists – on the condition that they changed their religion).
Describe the push and pull factors that were behing the second and third wave of immigration. Indicate when they took place and who participated in them.
The second wave was from 1820 to 1890, the people that came in this wave were Germans, Irish, British and Scandinavians (‘the old immigrants’).