AgrŽgation externe d’anglais, session 1999 option c : commentaire linguistique

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AgrŽgation externe d’anglais, session 1999 option C : commentaire linguistique

Textes numŽrisŽs par Pierre Busuttil, juillet 1999.

ArchivŽ sur le site web de l’ALOES par Jean-Louis Duchet, aožt 1999.

Liste des points relevŽs


- IT

- HAVE + past participle

- quantity and quantifiers

- nominal determination, in particular the use of 0, A, THE

- V+ING (including BE+ING)

- the expression of hypothesis

- intonation and typography, in particular the use of italics and punctuation

- cleft sentences.

- adjectives

- negation

- interrogative sentences.

- complex verbs (phrasal / prepositional verbs)

- definiteness and indefiniteness.

- time adverbs and adverbial clauses

- the grading devices (comparison, intensification, downtoning, etc.)

- relative clauses

- modality


Among other topics, do not forget to comment upon SHOULD and WOULD

He worked more quickly after this, carrying the dresses one by one across the room, laying them on the bed, and pausing after each to compare his list with Margery’s. Sometimes the name of a colour, the description of a stuff would puzzle him, and he pored above the two lists with bent brows, unable to make them tally.

Reluctantly he would inscribe a question mark. He heard ten strike, and began working even faster. He had still to make arrangements with the chauffeur: he liked to be in bed himself by half past eleven, and he didn’t approve of keeping the servants late.

Then, leaning deep into the cupboard, he saw the red dress, melting away into the shadows of the cedar wood. It hung alone in one corner with an air of withdrawal. Hewson reached out, twitched it down; it hung limp from his hands, unrustling, exhaling its own perfume of chiffon. He stepped back; it resisted for an infinitesimal second, then, before he could release the tension on it, tore with a long soft sound.

It came out into the light of the room hanging jagged and lamentable, the long hem trailing. Hewson had torn it, torn the red dress; of all her dresses. He looked at it in fear and a kind of defiant anger. He assured himself the stuff was rotten; she had not worn it for so long. Had, indeed, Margery’s avoidance of the red dress been deliberate?

With what motive, Hewson wondered, had this unique presentation of herself been so definitely eschewed? Did it make her shy—was she then conscious that it stood for something to be forgotten? He could never have believed this of Margery; he was startled to find that he himself should suspect it. Yet he returned to this: she had never worn the red dress since that occasion. He had watched for it speechlessly those ensuing weeks, evening after evening, but it had never appeared again. And here he had found it, hanging in the deepest shadow, trying to be forgotten.

Margery had put the red dress down on her list; she had underlined it. It was one of the dresses she wanted to take away to Leslie. Now it was torn, irreparably torn; she would never be able to wear it.

Hewson wondered whether Margery would be angry. He quailed a little, feeling the quick storm of her wrath about him; windy little buffets of derision and a fine sting of irony. She would certainly be angry when she knew, and go sobbing with rage to Leslie: Hewson wondered whether Leslie would be adequate. He debated whether he should pack the dress. Well, since it had admittedly stood for that to Margery as well as to himself, let her have it as it was! Hewson’s wits stirred—this  should be his comment. Why should he let her go to Leslie with that dress, the dress in which Hcwson had most nearly won her? It had been pacific, their rclationsship; neither of them would have admitted a crescendo, a climax, a decrescendo; but there had been a climax, and the red dress shone in both their memories to mark it. He did not think he would let the Margery who lived for Leslie wear the red dress of his own irreclaimable Margery.

Smiling and frowning a little with concentration, he eyed the thing, then gripped the folds in both hands and tore the dress effortlessly from throat to hem, refolded it, and tore again. A fine dust of silk crimsoned the air for a moment, assailed his nostrils, made him sneeze. He laid the dead dress gently down among the other dresses and stood away, looking down at them all.

These were all his, his like the room and the house. Without these dresses the inner Margery, unfostered would never have become perceptible to the world. She would have been like a page of music written never to be played. All her delightfulness to her friends had been in this expansion of herself into forms and colours. Hewson had fostered this expansion, as it now appeared, that Leslie might ultimately be delighted. From the hotel by the river the disembodied ghost of Margery was crying thinly to him for her body, her innumerable lovely bodies. Hewson expressed this to himself concisely and heavily, as a man should, as he stood looking down at the bed, half smiling, and said, ‘She has committed suicide.’

From boyhood, Hewson had never cared for any thoughts of revenge. Revenge was a very wild kind of justice, and Hewson was a civilized man. He believed in the Good, in the balance of things, and in an eventual, tremendous pay day. At once, the very evening Margery had left him, he had felt the matter to be out of his hands, and, wondering quite impartially how much she would be punished, had sat down almost at once to write and make arrangements with his sister. He had not, these last few days, felt sorrowful, venomous, or angry, because he had not felt at all; the making of these and other arrangements had too fully occupied him. He had always very lucidly and reasonably contended that the importance of mere feeling in determining a nun’s line of action is greatly overrated.

Now, looking down. he watched the dresses, tense with readiness to fall upon them if they stirred and pin them down and crush and crush and crush them. If he could unswervingly and unsparingly hold them in his eyes, he would be able to detect their movements, the irrepressible palpitation of that vitality she had infused into them. They lay there dormant; only the crimson dress was dead. He bent, and touched the creamy trickle of the ball dress.

Elizabeth Bowen, Making arrangements (1926)

Among other topics, do not forget to comment upon IT

It was about eleven when we came out of the theatre. I put Amy in a cab, and walked home to exercise the old knee joint. Roland says I should walk at least half an hour every day. I always enjoy crossing Waterloo Bridge, especially at night, with the buildings all floodlit: Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament to the west, the dome of St Paul’s and the knife sharp spires of other Wren churches to the east, with the red light on top of Canary Wharf winking on the horizon. London still feels like a great city, seen from Waterloo Bridge. Disillusionment sets in when you turn into the Strand and find that all the shop doorways have their quilted occupants, like mummies in a museum.

It didn’t occur to me that my own chap would be in residence, perhaps because I’d only ever seen him from inside the flat, on the video screen, well after midnight. He was sitting against the wall of the entryway, with his legs and lower trunk inside his sleeping bag, smoking a roll up. I said, “Hey, out of it, you can’t sleep here.” He looked up at me, brushing a long forelock of lank ginger hair from his eyes. I should say he’s about seventeen. Hard to tell. He had a faint smear of gingery bristle on his chin. “I wasn’t asleep,” he said.

“I’ve seen you sleeping here before,” I said, “Hop it.”

“Why?” he said. “I’m not doin’ any harm.” He drew his knees up inside the sleeping bag, as if to let me pass without stepping over him.

“It’s private property,” I said.

“Property is theft,” he said, with a sly sort of grin, as if he was trying me out.

“Oh ho,” I said, covering my surprise with sarcasm, “a Marxist Vagrant. What next?”

“It weren’t Marx,” he said, “it was proud one.” Or that’s what it sounded like.

“What proud one?” I said.

His eyes seemed to go out of focus momentarily, and he shook his head in a dogged sort of way. “I dunno, but it weren’t Marx. I looked it up once.”

“Anything wrong, sir? “

I turned round. Blow me if there weren’t a couple of coppers standing there. They’d materialized as if in answer to an unspoken prayer. Except that I didn’t want them now. Or not yet. Not at that precise moment. I surprised in myself a strange reluctance to hand the youth over to the power of the law. I don’t suppose they would have done anything worse than move him on, but I didn’t have time to work that out. It was a split second decision. “It’s alright, officer,” I said, to the one who had spoken to me. “I know this young man.”

The young man himself had meanwhile scrambled to his feet and was busily rolling up his sleeping bag.

“You live here, do you, sir?” said the policeman. I produced my keys in an over eager demonstration of ownership. The two way cell radio clipped to the chest of the other policeman began to squawk and crackle with some message about a burglar alarm in Lisle Street, and after a few more words with me the two of them walked away in step.

“Thanks,” said the youth.

I looked at him, already regretting my decision. (“If you shop him you will regret it, if you dont shop him you will regret it, shop him or don’t shop him, you will regret both . . .”) I was strongly tempted to tell him to bugger off, sharpish, but, glancing up the street, I saw the two coppers eyeing me from the next corner.

“I suppose you’d better come in for a few minutes,” I said.

He looked at me suspiciously from under his hank of hair. “Yer not queer, are yer?” he said.

“Good God, no,” I said. As we silently ascended in the lift, I realized why I hadn’t taken advantage of the miraculous appearance of the two policemen to get rid of him. It was that little phrase, “I looked it up,” that had thrown me momentarily off balance, and on to his side. Another looker upper. It was as if I had encountered on my doorstep a younger, less privileged image of myself.

“Nice,” he said approvingly, as I let him into the flat and switched on the lights. He went over to the window and looked down into the street. “Cor,” he said. “You can’t hardly hear the traffic.”

“It’s double glazed,” I said. “Look, I only invited you here to stop the police hassling you. I’ll give you a cup of tea, if you like—

“Ta,” he said, sitting down promptly on the sofa.

“—I’ll give you a cup of tea, but that’s it, understand? Then you’re on your way, and I don’t want to see you here again, ever. All right?” He nodded, rather less emphatically than I could have wished, and took a tin of rolling tobacco out of his pocket. “And I’d rather you didn’t smoke, if you don’t mind,” I said.

He sighed, and shrugged, and put the tin back in the pocket of his anorak.

David Lodge, Therapy, 1995

Among other topics, do not forget to comment upon HAVE + past participle

As I remember it was one morning a little while after my father and Miss Kenton had joined the staff, I had been in my pantry, sitting at the table going through my paperwork, when I heard a knock on my door. I recall I was a little taken aback when Miss Kenton opened the door and entered before I had bidden her to do so. She came in holding a large vase of flowers and said with a smile:

‘Mr Stevens, I thought these would brighten your parlour a little.’

‘I beg your pardon, Miss Kenton?’

‘It seemed such a pity your room should be so dark and cold, Mr Stevens, when it’s such bright sunshine outside. I thought these would enliven things a little.’

‘That’s very kind of you, Miss Kenton.’

‘It’s a shame more sun doesn’t get in here. The walls are even a little damp, are they not, Mr Stevens?’

I turned back to my accounts, saying. ‘Merely condensation, I believe, Miss Kenton.’

She put her vase down on the table in front of me, then glancing around my pantry again said: ‘If you wish, Mr Stevens, I might bring in some more cuttings for you.

‘Miss Kenton, I appreciate your kindness. But this is not a room of entertainment. I am happy to have distractions kept to a minimum.’

‘But surely, Mr Stevens, there is no need to keep your room so stark and bereft of colour.’

‘It has served me perfectly well thus far as it is, Miss Kenton, though I appreciate your thoughts. In fact, since you are here, there was a certain matter I wished to raise with you.’

‘Oh, really, Mr Stevens.’

‘Yes, Miss Kenton, just a small matter. I happened to be walking past the kitchen yesterday when I heard you calling to someone named William.’

‘Is that so, Mr Stevens?’

‘Indeed, Miss Kenton. I did hear you call several times for “William”. May I ask who it was you were addressing by that name?’

‘Why, Mr Stevens, I should think I was addressing your father. There are no other Williams in this house, I take .’

‘It’s an easy enough error to have made,’ I said with a small smile. ‘May I ask you in future, Miss Kenton, to address my father as ‘Mr Stevens’? If you are referring to him to a third party, then you may wish to call him “Mr Stevens senior” to distinguish him from myself. I’m most grateful, Miss Kenton.’

With that I turned back to my papers. But to my surprise, Miss Kenton did not take her leave. ‘Excuse me, Mr Stevens,’ she said after a moment.

‘Yes, Miss Kenton.’

‘I am afraid I am not quite clear what you are saying. I have in the past been accustomed to addressing underservants by their Christian names and saw no reason to do otherwise in this house.’

‘A most understandable error, Miss Kenton. However, if you will consider the situation for a moment, you may come to see the inappropriateness of someone such as yourself talking “down” to one such as my father.’

‘I am still not clear what you are getting at, Mr Stevens. You say someone such as myself, but I am as far as I understand the housekeeper of this house, while your father is the under butler.’

‘He is of course in title the under butler, as you say. But I am surprised your powers of observation have not already made it clear to you that he is in reality more than that. A great deal more.’

‘No doubt I have been extremely unobservant, Mr Stevens. I had only observed that your father was an able under butler and addressed him accordingly. It must indeed have been most galling for him to be so addressed by one such as I.’

‘Miss Kenton, it is clear from your tone you simply have not observed my father. If you had done so, the inappropriateness of someone of your age and standing addressing him as “William” should have been self evident to you.’

‘Mr Stevens, I may not have been a housekeeper for long, but I would say that in the time I have been, my abilities have attracted some very generous remarks.’

‘I do not doubt your competence for one moment, Miss Kenton. But a hundred things should have indicated to you that my father is a figure of unusual distinction from whom you may learn a wealth of things were you prepared to be more observant.’

‘I am most indebted to you for your advice, Mr Stevens.’

‘So do please tell me, just what marvellous things might I learn from observing your father?’

‘I would have thought it obvious to anyone with eyes, Miss Kenton.’

‘But we have already established, have we not, that I am particularly deficient in that respect.’

‘Miss Kenton, if you are under the impression you have already at your age perfected yourself, you will never rise to the heights you are no doubt capable of. I might point out, for instance, you are still often unsure of what goes where and which item is which.’

This seemed to take the wind out of Miss Kenton’s sails somewhat. Indeed, for a moment, she looked a little upset. Then she said:

‘I had a little difficulty on first arriving, but that is surely only normal!’

‘Ah, there you are, Miss Kenton. If you had observed my father who arrived in this house a week after you did, you will have seen that his house knowledge is perfect and was so almost from the time he set foot in Darlington Hall.’

Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains Of The Day (1989)

Among other topics, do not forget to comment upon quantity and quantifiers

‘Mam,’ he moaned, dipping bread and butter in his tea, a thing I’m sure he’d never been able to do with his posh missis at the table, ‘she led me a dog’s life. In fact a dog would have been better off in his kennel with an old bone to chew now and again than I was with her. It was all right at first, because you see, mam, she had some idea that a working bloke like myself was good and honest and all that sort of thing. I never knew whether she’d read this in a book or whether she’d known working blokes before that were different from me, but she might have read it because she had a few books in the house that I never looked at, and she never mentioned any other blokes in her life. She used to say that it was a treat to be able to marry and live with a bloke like me who used his bare hands for a living, because there weren’t many blokes in the world, when you considered it, who did good hard labouring work. She said she’d die if ever she married a bloke as worked in an office and who crawled around his boss because he wanted to get on. So I thought it would go off all right, mam, honest I did, when she said nice things like this to me. It made the netting factory look better to me, and I didn’t so much mind carrying bobbins from one machine to another. I was happy with her and I thought that she was happy with me. At first she made a bigger fuss of me than before we were married even, and when I came home at night she used to talk about politics and books and things, saying how the world was made for blokes like me and that we should run the world and not leave it to a lot of money grubbing capitalist bastards who didn’t know any more about it than to talk like babies week after week and get nothing done that was any good to anybody.

‘But to tell you the truth, mam, I was too tired to talk politics after I’d done a hard day’s graft, and then she started to ask questions, and would get ratty after a while when she began to see that I couldn’t answer what she wanted to know. She asked me all sorts of things, about my bringing up, about my dad, about all the neighbours in the terrace, but I could never tell her much, anyway, not what she wanted to know, and that started a bit of trouble. At first she packed my lunches and dinners and there was always a nice hot tea and some clothes to change into waiting for me when I came home, but later on she wanted me to have a bath every night, and that caused a bit of trouble because I was too tired to have a bath and often I was too fagged out even to change my clothes. I wanted to sit in my overalls listening to the wireless and reading the paper in peace. Once when I was reading the paper and she was getting mad because I couldn’t get my eyes off the fotball results she put a match to the bottom of the paper and I didn’t know about it till the flames almost came into my face. I got a fright, I can tell you, because 1 thought we were still happy then. And she made a joke about it, and even went out to buy me another newspaper, so I thought it was all right and that it was only a rum joke she’d played. But not long after that when I’d got the racing on the wireless she said she couldn’t stand the noise and that I should listen to something better, so she pulled the plug out and wouldn’t put it back.

‘Yes, she did very well by me at first, that I will say, just like you, mam, but then she grew tired of it all, and started to read books all day, and there’d be nowt on the table at tea time when I came home dead to the wide except a packet of fags and a bag of toffees. She was all loving to me at first, but then she got sarcastic and said she couldn’t stand the sight of me.’

Alan Sillitoe, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, 1959
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