Year 13

The Euro and Its Impact

Euro notes

Credit: Images money

What does economics tell us about the operation of single currency areas and currency unions (such as the Eurozone)?

This is one of the questions that the Euro and Its Impact resource asks you to consider. This pdf was produced by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), and is designed for sixth formers with an interest in economic affairs and policy. It provides information on the topic as well as suggestions for further reading.

If you would like to find out more about the Institute of Economic Affairs and what it does, do have a look at its IEA website. If you have a particular area of interest, you may find the policy areas section useful for finding relevant material.

Date posted: 

Thursday 17 July 2014


Pierre Bourdieu: What affects our tastes?

Beach Scene by Renoir

For Bourdieu, cultural consumption  is 'an act of deciphering, decoding, which presupposes practical or explicit mastery of a cipher'. Renoir image credit: freeparking

How much is taste shaped by education and social influences? Pierre Bourdieu was a French sociologist, anthropologist and philosopher who looked into these questions, most famously in his 1975 book, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste.

In the introduction, Bourdieu writes:

Taste classifies, and it classifies the classifier. Social subjects, classified by their classifications, distinguish themselves by the distinctions they make, between the beautiful and the ugly, the distinguished and the vulgar, in which their position in the objective classifications is expressed or betrayed.

Bourdieu collected information through questionnaires which asked people questions about their tastes in art, literature, music etc. For example, he compared preferences for different musical pieces and charted these against information about each particpant's social background:

Bourdieu's text includes diagrams and charts which plot his results and show correlations that he found in the data. A key idea in this book is that of 'cultural capital', that is, 'assets' that people acquire, such as education and cultural experience, which can affect social mobility regardless of financial means.

If you have the opportunity to look at Bourdieu's work, do have a think about this way of looking at taste. Do you agree / disagree / recognise aspects of it? Can you think of any examples in modern culture and society? What do you think of the way that Bourdieu collected and used his data? Does his work have wider implications for questions of taste, sociology and identity?

Further exploration:

Date posted: 

Friday 11 July 2014


Viktor Shklovsky: making things strange


In Tolstoy's Kholstomer (Strider), a horse is sometimes the narrator.
Image credit: Phil Roeder

In his 1917 essay, 'Art as Technique', Russian writer Viktor Shklovsky argues that often we don't notice things because they are familiar to us. However, art (a term that Shklovsky uses in a broad sense to include literary writing) can present things in a strange or unfamiliar way, which makes us look at them for longer:

Habitualization devours work, clothes, furniture, one's wife, and the fear of war. "If the whole complex lives of many people go on unconsciously, then such lives are as if they had never been." [Shklovsky is quoting Tolstoy's diary] And art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony. The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects "unfamiliar," to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object.

You might like to read the full text of 'Art as Technique', which was published in English translation in Russian Formalist Criticism: Four Essays, ed. by L,T. Lemon and M, J. Reis, pages 3 - 24.

What do you think of Shklovsky's description of the purpose of literary writing? Does his argument apply to all literary texts? Are there genres where you would expect to find this technique more frequently? Can you think of any examples in texts you have read / are reading where something is presented in a strange way that makes you notice it? And can you think of any limitations to Shklovsky's argument?

Further reading:

Date posted: 

Sunday 29 June 2014


Architecture - Exploring spaces

The Shed (temporary auditorium)

The Shed by Haworth Tompkins - an example of pop up architecture. Image credit: David Holt

What catches your eye? If you're thinking of studying Architecture at university, the summer is a great time to practice your drawing skills, to have a go at capturing your interests with a camera, and to think about the spaces and effects that you notice around you through explorative work in a range of media.

You can do this very well on your own, following your interests. You might like to read the information about portfolios if you would like some advice about work that you can later use in an application to Cambridge, and there are also some examples of application portfolios available - see Portfolio 1 and Portfolio 2.

If you are looking for events to attend, as well as any websites about what is on in your local area, RIBA (The Royal Institute of British Architects) has a good What's On? page for events up and down the UK, or you can look up events all over the world on the e-architect website

Date posted: 

Sunday 22 June 2014


Gender in Japanese Studies - Free book for your school library?

A book of undergraduate dissertations was published last year, exploring emerging and divergent gender issues in Japan. It is called Manga Girl Seeks Herbivore Boy: Studying Japanese Gender at Cambridge, and it offers some fascinating insights into modern Japanese culture and society, as well as a great way to get a flavour of the kinds of material that you could study if you choose Japanese in the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies course (even if you've never studied Japanese before!). To find out more about the book, read the news article.

In order to introduce Japanese Studies, the department is offering a free copy to 50 school libraries. Why not ask your school librarian to click here for further information and the request form!

Date posted: 

Thursday 12 June 2014


What's on Radio 4?

Credit: Adam Foster (cropped)

If you're interested in economics, politics or sociology, recent programmes available on bbc iplayer radio include:

To find other programmes, do explore the Radio 4 website.

Are you struggling to access Radio 4? Click on 'How to listen' in the menu on the left of this help section. If you are outside the UK, see the iplayer access information.

Date posted: 

Wednesday 11 June 2014


Treating MS - science and clinical trials

When a patient has MS (Multiple Sclerosis), the immune system begins to attack the body's own healthy nerve cells. The disease strips away their protective sheath, and prevents electrical signals from moving effectively between the brain and the body.

Researchers at Cambridge have been working on a treatment for MS for some time, and the drug that they have developed was recently approved for use in people with MS. The following film explains the science and clinical trials behind this:

Date posted: 

Sunday 8 June 2014


Celebrating Dickens

Illustration from 'The Pickwick Papers'

Illustration from The Pickwick Papers. Credit: Sue Clark

Have you read a book by Charles Dickens?

The University of Warwick have a Celebrating Dickens website, on which you can access articles, videos, podcasts, and a documentary about different aspects of the work of Charles Dickens and the Victorian era in which he lived. There's also a mobile app if you prefer.

Date posted: 

Saturday 7 June 2014


Problem-solving website for Engineering

Connel Bridge

Connel Bridge in Scotland
Credit: artq55

When you're doing exercises in maths and physics, how much do you feel like you're relying on previous examples that you have memorised, and how much time do you spend problem solving, or working on a kind of question that requires more thought?

Cambridge University Engineering Department has a website designed for developing and practicing problem solving in many contexts - do explore this resource:

Further information

Date posted: 

Friday 6 June 2014


Literature of the liberation (1944-1946)

Cambridge University Library

Cambridge University Library

What sort of books do you think were published in France just after the liberation of Paris in 1944? This website and film are part of an exhibition at Cambridge University Library exploring the first writings of French authors on their experiences in the War, occupation and liberation.

Once Paris was free and the Vichy government had collapsed, there was no more censorship. Books were published even while the War was still being fought in some parts of France.

If you're near enough to also visit, this free exhibition is open from 7 May until 11 October. See details for visiting.

Date posted: 

Wednesday 4 June 2014



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