I. Turn the following noun phrases into the corresponding verbal ones. Make the necessary changes.
Example: a lack of respect — to lack respect
Respect for privacy
Increase in informality
Request for information
Revelation about extra-marital affairs
Deviation from what is normal
II. Match the nouns with the adjectives they collocate with:
extra-marital formula / reply
1. Frequent mention is made in this chapter of British individualism. How many examples of this can you find? Can you think of any others?
2. It has been said that the British are suspicious of things in public life which are logical or systematic. Can you find examples in this chapter which could be used to support this opinion?
3. Imagine this situation: you are at home, just about to have lunch, when there is a knock at the door. It is a British friend of yours, not a very close friend, but closer than a mere acquaintance. He or she has come to pay you an unexpected visit. You suggest that your friend comes in and stays for lunch. But your friend is embarrassed to find that he or she has called at a mealtime and refuses the invitation. You want to persuade your friend to change his or her mind. Here are two possible ways of doing this:
A. Please stay. We don't have much, I'm afraid, but we'd be honoured. Whatever we have is yours.
B. It's no trouble at all. There's plenty of food. Don't think twice about it. We're used to people popping in.
Which of these two do you think would be a more successful way to persuade a British person? A or B? Why?
4. Which (if any) of the British characteristics described in this chapter would you regard as also characteristic of people in your country? To what extent?
WHAT IS ENGLAND?
I. Which of the following proverbs best reflect, to your thinking, the peculiarities of the English national character?
1) Honesty is the best policy.
2) Never trouble trouble till trouble troubles you.
3) Never say die.
4) What can't be cured must be endured.
5) Where there's a will there's a way.
6) A hedge between keeps friendship green.
7) Speak fair and think what you like.
8) Spare the rod and spoil the child.
When I was young I was led to believe that being an Englishman meant being an imperial adventurer. Those images, of Englishmen who faced extreme danger with complete equanimity, who cheerfully shot large numbers of animals and black people, and who failed ever to have a conversation with a woman, were always for me images of ideal types which I knew were quite beyond me. I found them impressive and intimidating, but also terrifying and absurd.
Later I became conscious of, and learned to feel at home with, different ways of thinking about what it has meant to be English. For example, I learned to revere Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, John Locke and Bertrand Russell. These giants of English science and philosophy signify, to me, that to be English can mean not shooting big game but daring to think big thoughts (and thoughts get no bigger than those of Newton and Darwin), to be intellectually ambitious and unconventional and not to be intimidated by orthodoxy. Moreover, it is 'English' to celebrate the liberties that make all this possible.
So 'England' has not been an unchanging thing. There have been many versions of it which have been culturally important.
While imperial adventure narratives of 'England' survived until after World War II, another and quite different set of images and ideas had been developed in women's fiction in the 1930s. The idea of Englishness was 'feminized', and offered 'a private and retiring people, pipe-smoking "little men" with their quietly competent partners, a nation of gardeners and housewives'. Englishness was located above all in the southern suburbs and garden cities. Writing Englishness quotes Osbert Lancaster's observation that: 'English is the only language that has a word for "home".'
Gardening was a component of one idea of Englishness which was most immediate for me as a child during the war, that of the unbowed civilian population at war, who continued to 'dig for victory' and to remain calm during airraids. This version of Englishness overlaps with those of Orwell's famous essay on English patriotism, The Lion and the Unicorn, Henry Moore's drawings of Londoners in the underground during the Blitz and Humphrey Jennings's wartime films. This was perhaps the last time when it was possible to plausibly represent the nation as united in a common purpose and as exhibiting a national character to which the masses of people, rather than just elites, could at least aspire. The English person, according to this conception, exhibited calm determination under very difficult circumstances. In Jennings's films, Listen to Britain and Fires were Started, people do not rush about and they do not shout and panic, even though bombs fall and buildings blaze. They exhibit quiet heroism and a willingness to make very real sacrifices in the common good. Of course, not everybody behaved like this during the war, but very many people felt that they ought to do their best to do so. After the war, this democratized version of Englishness fed into the building of the Welfare State, the people's deserved reward for their wartime sacrifices and a powerful component of postwar conceptions of Englishness.
What has been the fate of 'Englishness' in the period since the war?
There are many ways of writing the history of post-war 'England', different selections can be made of defining moments and outstanding achievements which seemed to clarify what it could mean to be English. The most ambitious literary view is that offered in the novels of Angus Wilson. What did we think that the English had been especially good at? It was taken to be a truism in 1950 that the English could write novels and poetry but could not compose music, but the 1960s changed all that and young people today would find that a strange thought. This helpfully reminds us of just how variable the perception of national identity can be and how unwise it is to attempt to fix it in thought.
My own version of the history of 'Englishness' since the war would conjecture that there has been a radical discontinuity in the vocabulary of 'Englishness'. I would locate in the mid-1980s a moment of national convulsion, a cultural whirlwind of destruction of fables and icons, which radically destabilized accepted ideas of 'England' and 'Englishness'. The mood was apocalyptic and was caught in the work of Hanif Kureishi and others, and with great foresight in Doris Lessing's novels a decade or so earlier.
This was a convulsion caught with particularly ferocious precision in a film by Derek Jarman called The Last of England (1987). His title is borrowed from a well-known Victorian painting by Ford Madox Brown, which shows a group of emigrants looking back from their ship as they sail away towards a new life. They seem to wonder anxiously just what their new life might bring and also perhaps to survey in imagination the England that they are leaving behind. Jarman's film looks back to the war (he uses home movies shot by his father during and just after the war) towards an England with which he had had a troubled and ambivalent relationship and which was now moving for ever out of view.
Contemporary England is presented as a strife-torn and derelict wasteland. Whereas in Humphrey Jennings' wartime propaganda films men in uniform were heroic firefighters, sailors and airmen, in Jarman's film they are the sinister, masked agents of a state turned against its own people. I imagine that some people would not accept that this was an accurate description of England in the mid-1980s, yet it was a time when something like half of the population felt that official attitudes excluded them from membership of the nation. They were deemed to be, in one guise or another, the 'enemy within'.
By the mid-1990s the mood is less apocalyptic but still valedictory. Familiar ideas of 'England', with which we have felt at home for a long time, are moving away from us for ever. As we celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of victory over fascism in Europe, the question of England's identity was posed in terms of its relationship with Europe. Forging a European dimension to our identity, a project with which many of us feel quite at home, has become the occasion of much, as yet inconclusive argument. The ancient iconography of 'England' as a warlike, global power is, unfortunately, still deployed by posturing politicians from time to time.
Not only has England's relationship with Europe changed beyond recognition but so also has the relationship between England and the English language. Churchill wrote a book called A History of the English Speaking People. I do not remember at the time, in the early 1950s it must have been, finding the title especially puzzling. But now the idea of 'English speaking people' is wonderfully baffling, and those who are English are enormously outnumbered by those who speak English. What are they all doing with 'our' language, and who is this 'our' in any case? Pronouns which used to seem to work in relatively uncomplicated ways, can now cause confusion. Not only the Scots and Irish but also Americans, Indians, New Zealanders, Nigerians, among many others, speak English and write in English, and this is enormously to our enrichment.
What is 'England' now? It is something to be imagined and created rather than remembered and preserved unchanged, something inclusive and culturally multiple rather than a quintessence or a heritage. Perhaps in future it just won't matter to people so much what England is because it will be so many different but equally valued things. The ideal would be if we were all free to tell our different stories without each claiming to be the inheritor of the only true meaning of Englishness.
I. Choose the correct equivalent for the
1) to revere —
a. enjoy oneself
2) plausible -
3) truism -
4) to conjecture -
- a. implore
5) ferocious —
6) derelict -
7) to deem -
8) valedictory —
9) quintessence -
- a. revival
II. Explain the meaning of the following:
1) complete equanimity
3) to celebrate the liberties
4) to dig for victory
5) the Blitz
6) the Welfare State
8) destruction of fables and icons
9) The mood was less apocalyptic.
11) to forge a European dimension
12) posturing politicians
III. Match the adjectives with the nouns they collocate with:
b. circumstances ñ adventurer
f. civilian population
IV. Explain the use of articles with the word England:
They seem ... to survey in imagination the England that they are leaving behind. Jarman's film looks back to the war towards an England with which he had had a troubled and ambivalent relationship ...
I. Fill in the grid:
Ford Madox Brown
(Supply details about the personalities from the list above (time of life, major works, etc.)
II. Sort out the details for each "stereotype" of the English person
1) imperial adventurer
2) giants of English science and philosophy
3) a nation of gardeners and housewives
4) the unbowed civilian population at war
5) post-war English
6) the 1980s England
7) the 1990s England
a. exhibited calm determination under very difficult circumstances;
b. private and retiring people;
ñ could write novels and poetry but could not compose music;
d. sinister, masked agents of a state turned against its own people;
f. cheerfully shot large numbers of animals and black people;
e. faced extreme danger with complete equanimity;
g. exhibited quiet heroism and a willingness to make real sacrifices in the common good;
h. something inclusive and culturally multiple rather than a quintessence or a heritage;
i. failed ever to have a conversation with a woman;
j. a strife-torn and derelict wasteland;
k. shooting big game;
1. not to be intimidated by orthodoxy;
m. located in the southern suburbs and garden cities;
n. daring to think big thoughts;
o. continued to 'dig for victory' and to remain calm during airraids;
p. pipe-smoking "little men";
q. intellectually ambitious and unconventional.
III. Answer the questions:
1) Is it correct to say that there is a typical image of an Englishman?
2) Which is "more English": to shoot big game or to think big thoughts?
3) When was the idea of Englishness "feminized"?
4) What artists and authors contributed to the formation of the image of the English during World War II?
5) How did the idea of Englishness develop after World War II?
6) What is the future of the idea of Englishness, according to the author?