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Melvyn Bragg - Class & Culture
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Apple



Joined: 24 Nov 2008
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 05, 2012 12:19 am    Post subject: Melvyn Bragg - Class & Culture  Reply with quote

Not sure where to put this as its not exactly a book thing, but its definately not chat, and its not a tv adaptation of a book either.  Considering the things which have been discussed recently on the board about education and everything I think this ties in quite nicely with most of what has been said in those discussions.

Has anyone seen them, the first episode is still available on BBC iplayer till next Friday (16th March 2012) and the second episode is up there as well to watch. Here are links to both episodes if anyone is interested.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/epis...g_on_Class_and_Culture_Episode_1/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/epis...g_on_Class_and_Culture_Episode_2/

The first episode deals with Edwardian Britain up to 1945 where the differences in class was at its most stark.  It not only talks about literature of the time and different authors but also other cultural factors in the different parts of society, ie music, art, television & radio etc.

Has anyone watched it?


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Sandraseahorse



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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2012 7:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I watched the second in the series and found it interesting but it covered such a wide field that I became irritated by the sweeping generalisations. I think each programme should have been followed by a studio discussion in which Bragg defended some of the claims he made in the programme.


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TheRejectAmidHair



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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2012 8:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello Sandra,

Being currently retricted to the television in my hotel room here in Hyderabad, I didn't see this at all. What sort of claim was Bragg making?

The interaction of class and culture is a very broad theme, and there is much to be said on the topic; but it is also a topic on which it is easy to be controversial, and inflame tempers.



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Apple



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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2012 6:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Himadri
I have posted up links to the BBC iplayer where these programmes being shown in my opening post if you want to take a look I am assuming that you should be able to access it. The first episode is only available until Friday 16th though, so depending on how long you are away and if you can access it its there.

I thought it was really interesting as well and as I say ties in with the whole education thing we have been discussing, but I thought he made a few sweeping statements which were a bit general, the one which stuck out for me was saying that poet -Betjemen was a snob and the evidence he put up was one bloody poem! Which I thought was a bit unfair, I don't know much about poets and poetry and for all I know he could have been a snob but I think he should have provided more evidence to back up his claim. It reminded me of the argument I had with you that time over you making sweeping general statements about if a writer could be considered incompetent based on one passage of writing.

He also went on a bit about his working class background and upbringing almost as if because he now considers himself middle class he was apologising for bettering himself. I could have been way off the mark, but that was the impression I got anyway.


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Sandraseahorse



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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2012 7:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with the points Apple has made.

One example of sweeping generalisation was in an article Bragg wrote in the "Telegraph" about the series, just before the series went out in which he said the Attlee government had considered  abolishing the public schools.  Bragg thought this would be a good thing as he claimed an entirely state education system would have produced more in the way of scientists and designers and the country would have become more prosperous.
Interesting point.

However,  a cursory google of  the background of a few modern British inventors reveals:
Frank Whittle - privately educated
Alan Turing - Sherbourne
James  Dyson - private boarding school

I accept this is hardly a definitive counter-argument but at least I have produced a few facts, which is more than Bragg did.  

There were a lot of comments  like this which I would have liked to have seen Bragg defend and expand in a discussion programme afterwards.




Last edited by Sandraseahorse on Wed Mar 07, 2012 7:52 am; edited 1 time in total
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TheRejectAmidHair



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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2012 7:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, both, for that. And incidentally, I fully stand by the comments I had made about that writer in question being incompetent.



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Evie
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2012 10:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Melvyn Bragg has made it clear that this is his personal view, and I think that's good - I much prefer a personal view than someone trying to be entirely objective (not possible).  I don't think your three cases, Sandra, undermine his statement at all, though I agree that these generalisations need backing up.  For me, he is someone I respect enough to take his generalisations seriously - not to accept them uncritically, but to be interested enough to think further for myself.  

We know from In Our Time and some of his South Bank stuff and other series he has done that he is intensely curious and very widely read, and does a lot of further reading and research, so I accept that his generalisations stem from this - not excusing the lack of evidence, just that he is someone, as I say, whose opinions and whose seriousness of mind interest me, and I would happily do further research myself to flesh out some of his comments.  Good TV should instigate further thought, rather than filling in all the facts and details.

So far I have only seen half of one programme, though (the last half of the second programme), despite having intended to catch up with the series on iPlayer.


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Apple



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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2012 11:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Evie is right that he said it was "his view" he said about class that "everyone has an opinion on it and this is mine".  I thought the first episode was very good as it was more historically based going from Edwardian Britain through  the two world wars to 1945. He wasn't as general in this episode.

But the second episode, was different, he started talking about the grammer school he went to and that how it changed and how he got in was with a scholarship or something, and then he said that it was now a comprehensive school.  He then went on to say that the post war years obliterated the need for class distinction and the centuries old regime but the public schools held on to it.

He went on about the rise of the middle classes and growth of suburbia a Betjemen poem was read "Middlesex" it was called, and that was when he said that Betjemen was popular with the middle classes but he could be snobbish in his observations of the lower classes and then in the next breath he was talking about Nancy Mitford and something she wrote called you and non you vocabulary, and I felt he was almost trying to link things which didn't naturally link together.  He went back to Betjemen saying he was a different voice to T S Elliot and was joined by Philip Larkin, he said they admired each other and it cut to Philip Larkin saying what you wrote about was based on what sort of person you were and how you were brought up (not his exact words) Melvyn Bragg then came in saying Larkins work was more gloomy but more accepting of the modern world, whereas Betjemens was prejudiced against the modern which tipped into snobbery,  he was talking to some bloke (some aristocrat who did not use his title or something) who disagreed saying there was a snobbery but also an underlying sympathy in Betjemens work. The evidence for all this was a line he wrote something about friendly bombs on Slough which he said was not only distainful but also a bit off considering it was written in 1937 when war was threatening.

The other bit about literature which attracted my attention was when he said there was an explosion against the upper class arrogance and genteel middle class by a group of authors and he mentioned Kingsley Amis and John Bray (?) I think that was the name, the books were Lucky Jim and Room at the top, but he said it was a cultural revolt not political.

He made a big thing about the middle class not wanting the working class to better themselves and rise up the ladder and he was talking about private clubs and things, so make of it what you will, I just thought the way he was talking he was apologising for the fact he had worked his way up to this middle class who in his opinion acted like this.

I am looking forward to next weeks episode though as that is looking at the rise in celebrity and the new rich and also at the opposite end what he called the underclass, and how the class system has changed and what its like now.

I am enjoying it though, despite the fact I thought he was a bit general but I wasn't irritated by it, I just noticed it and thought a couple of times that was a bit of a sweeping statement to make, especially about that poet bloke, I mean to label someone and their work snobby on the strength that they were popular with the middle class and offer only one line about bloody bombs being dropped on Slough as your evidence was a bit much but thats just my opinion.


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MikeAlx



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PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2012 12:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

John Braine it was who wrote "Room at the Top". There was a fashion for working-class writers in the late 50s and early 60s, the so-called "Angry Young Men", with a distinctive style which came to be called "kitchen sink drama". However, it went out of fashion quite quickly. Not that Kingsley Amis ever quite fitted that mould - more typical of the phenomenon were people like Alan Sillitoe and John Osbourne.

I'm sure I read somewhere that the thing about "we should've scrapped the public schools" was a quote from an elderly member of the House of Lords rather than from Bragg himself - but as I haven't seen the programme yet I stand to be corrected!



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Apple



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PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2012 7:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

MikeAlx wrote:
John Braine it was who wrote "Room at the Top". There was a fashion for working-class writers in the late 50s and early 60s, the so-called "Angry Young Men", with a distinctive style which came to be called "kitchen sink drama". However, it went out of fashion quite quickly. Not that Kingsley Amis ever quite fitted that mould - more typical of the phenomenon were people like Alan Sillitoe and John Osbourne.

I'm sure I read somewhere that the thing about "we should've scrapped the public schools" was a quote from an elderly member of the House of Lords rather than from Bragg himself - but as I haven't seen the programme yet I stand to be corrected!
Thanks for correcting me there, I was going on memory of what I had seen and thought he had said Bray.

He never mentioned Alan Silitoe or John Osbourne at all only the two I said previously and its interesting that you say it went out of fashion very quickly because the way he was talking about it it seemed to me he made it out to be not like that at all, from what he said it sounded like it was a change which stayed and was built on.

Just out of interest, I didn't see the newspaper article he wrote about private schools, so cannot comment on what Sandra said but from the things he said in about private schools in the programme hanging on to the class system you got the distinct impression he didn't think a lot of them, that and the tone he told us that the school he went to was now a comprehensive, almost like its a comprehensive now isn't that brilliant, but as we all know grammer schools which were good schools in the past are not necessarilystill good schools now.  Not that I am saying the school he went to is crap now, but do you get what I am trying to say, how he put it across was a bit narrow in my opinion, but I could have read more into it and been wrong in what I thought but thats just the way it came across to me.



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