The Unexamined Orwell

The Unexamined Orwell

by John Rodden
     
 

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The year 1984 is just a memory, but the catchwords of George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four still routinely pepper public discussions of topics ranging from government surveillance and privacy invasion to language corruption and bureaucratese. Orwell's work pervades the cultural imagination, while others of his literary generation are long

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Overview

The year 1984 is just a memory, but the catchwords of George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four still routinely pepper public discussions of topics ranging from government surveillance and privacy invasion to language corruption and bureaucratese. Orwell's work pervades the cultural imagination, while others of his literary generation are long forgotten. Exploring this astonishing afterlife has become the scholarly vocation of John Rodden, who is now the leading authority on the reception, impact, and reinvention of George Orwell—the man and writer—as well as of "Orwell" the cultural icon and historical talisman.

In The Unexamined Orwell, Rodden delves into dimensions of Orwell's life and legacy that have escaped the critical glare. Rodden discusses how several leading American intellectuals have earned the title of Orwell's "successor," including Lionel Trilling, Dwight Macdonald, Irving Howe, Christopher Hitchens, and John Lukacs. He then turns to Germany and focuses on the role and relevance of Nineteen Eighty-Four in the now-defunct communist nation of East Germany. Rodden also addresses myths that have grown up around Orwell's life, including his "more than half-legendary" encounter with Ernest Hemingway in liberated Paris in March 1945, and analyzes literary issues such as his utopian sensibility and his prose style. Finally, Rodden poses the endlessly debated question, "What Would George Orwell Do?," and speculates about how the prophet of Nineteen Eighty-Four would have reacted to world events. In so doing, Rodden shows how our responses to this question reveal much about our culture's ongoing need to reappropriate "Orwell."

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Can there be anything new to say about George Orwell? Longtime Orwell scholar Rodden (communication studies, Univ. of Texas, Austin) thinks there is, but his book largely recycles themes from two of his previous works, Scenes from an Afterlife and Every Intellectual's Big Brother. Yet he does add new perspectives in these 18 chapters (he calls them "reception scenes"), or case studies, on Orwell's literary afterlife. He discusses the work of five writers considered successors to Orwell, politically and culturally: Dwight MacDonald, Lionel Trilling, Irving Howe, Christopher Hitchens, and John Lukacs; he takes a close look at Orwell's impact in East Germany (how its totalitarian world replicated Nineteen Eighty-Four). In the final section, a bit of a miscellany, Rodden examines some of the Orwell myths that have endured (e.g., did Hemingway really rescue Orwell in Paris in 1945?—probably not), assesses utopian fiction, proposes how Orwell might have reviewed his own biographies, and, most interestingly, considers "The Life Orwell Never Lived?" VERDICT Rodden's writing is always accessible to both scholars and general readers. This collection, however, does not break much new ground and will primarily appeal to those who collect everything written about Orwell. With extensive notes.—Thomas A. Karel, Franklin & Marshall Coll. Lib., Lancaster, PA

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780292725584
Publisher:
University of Texas Press
Publication date:
09/01/2011
Pages:
368
Product dimensions:
9.30(w) x 6.30(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

JOHN RODDEN has taught at the University of Virginia and the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author or editor of Every Intellectual’s Big Brother: George Orwell’s Literary Siblings; The Politics of Literary Reputation: The Making and Claiming of St. George Orwell; Scenes from an Afterlife: The Legacy of George Orwell; Understanding Animal Farm in Historical Context; and George Orwell: Into The Twenty-First Century, among other books.

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