All Art Is Propaganda: Critical Essays

All Art Is Propaganda: Critical Essays

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780156033077
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 10/14/2009
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 374
Sales rank: 292,418
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)
Lexile: 1300L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

GEORGE ORWELL (1903–1950) served with the Imperial Police in Burma, fought with the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War, and was a member of the Home Guard and a writer for the BBC during World War II. He is the author of many works of nonfiction and fiction.

GEORGE PACKER is a staff writer for the New Yorker and author of The Assassin's Gate: America in Iraq and other works. He lives in Brooklyn.

Keith Gessen was born in Russia and educated at Harvard. He is a founding editor of n+1 and has written about literature and culture for Dissent, the Nation, the New Yorker, and the New York Review of Books. He is the author of the novel All the Sad Young Literary Men.

Read an Excerpt

Charles Dickens

Inside the Whale, March 11, 1940

Inside the Whale and Other Essays was published in London by Victor Gollancz Ltd on March 11, 1940. It contained three essays: "Charles Dickens," "Boys’ Weeklies," and "Inside the Whale."

1

Dickens is one of those writers who are well worth stealing. Even the burial of his body in Westminster Abbey was a species of theft, if you come to think of it.

When Chesterton wrote his introductions to the Everyman Edition of Dickens’s works, it seemed quite natural to him to credit Dickens with his own highly individual brand of medievalism, and more recently a Marxist writer, Mr. T. A. Jackson,1 has made spirited efforts to turn Dickens into a bloodthirsty revolutionary. The Marxist claims him as "almost" a Marxist, the Catholic claims him as "almost" a Catholic, and both claim him as a champion of the proletariat (or "the poor," as Chesterton would have put it). On the other hand, Nadezhda Krupskaya, in her little book on Lenin, relates that towards the end of his life Lenin went to see a dramatised version of The Cricket on the Hearth, and found Dickens’s "middle-class sentimentality" so intolerable that he walked out in the middle of a scene.

Taking "middle-class" to mean what Krupskaya might be expected to mean by it, this was probably a truer judgment than those of Chesterton and Jackson. But it is worth noticing that the dislike of Dickens implied in this remark is something unusual. Plenty of people have found him unreadable, but very few seem to have felt any hostility towards the general spirit of his work. Some years ago Mr. Bechhofer Roberts published a full-length attack on Dickens in the form of a novel (This Side Idolatry), but it was a merely personal attack, concerned for the most part with Dickens’s treatment of his wife. It dealt with incidents which not one in a thousand of Dickens’s readers would ever hear about, and which no more invalidate his work than the second-best bed invalidates Hamlet. All that the book really demonstrated was that a writer’s literary personality has little or nothing to do with his private character. It is quite possible that in private life Dickens was just the kind of insensitive egoist that Mr. Bechhofer Roberts makes him appear. But in his published work there is implied a personality quite different from this, a personality which has won him far more friends than enemies. It might well have been otherwise, for even if Dickens was a bourgeois, he was certainly a subversive writer, a radical, one might truthfully say a rebel. Everyone who has read widely in his work has felt this. Gissing, for instance, the best of the writers on Dickens, was anything but a radical himself, and he disapproved of this strain in Dickens and wished it were not there, but it never occurred to him to deny it. In Oliver Twist, Hard Times, Bleak House, Little Dorrit, Dickens attacked English institutions with a ferocity that has never since been approached. Yet he managed to do it without making himself hated, and, more than this, the very people he attacked have swallowed him so completely that he has become a national institution himself. In its attitude towards Dickens the English public has always been a little like the elephant which feels a blow with a walking-stick as a delightful tickling. Before I was ten years old I was having Dickens ladled down my throat by schoolmasters in whom even at that age I could see a strong resemblance to Mr. Creakle, and one knows without needing to be told that lawyers delight in Serjeant Buzfuz and that Little Dorrit is a favourite in the Home Office. Dickens seems to have succeeded in attacking everybody and antagonizing nobody. Naturally this makes one wonder whether after all there was something unreal in his attack upon society. Where exactly does he stand, socially, morally and politically? As usual, one can define his position more easily if one starts by deciding what he was not.

In the first place he was not, as Messrs. Chesterton and Jackson seem to imply, a "proletarian" writer. To begin with, he does not write about the proletariat, in which he merely resembles the overwhelming majority of novelists, past and present. If you look for the working classes in fiction, and especially English fiction, all you find is a hole. This statement needs qualifying, perhaps. For reasons that are easy enough to see, the agricultural labourer (in England a proletarian) gets a fairly good showing in fiction, and a great deal has been written about criminals, derelicts and, more recently, the working-class intelligentsia. But the ordinary town proletariat, the people who make the wheels go round, have always been ignored by novelists. When they do find their way between the covers of a book, it is nearly always as objects of pity or as comic relief. The central action of Dickens’s stories almost invariably takes place in middle-class surroundings. If one examines his novels in detail one finds that his real subject-matter is the London commercial bourgeoisie and their hangers-on—lawyers, clerks, tradesmen, innkeepers, small craftsmen and servants. He has no portrait of an agricultural worker, and only one (Stephen Blackpool in Hard Times) of an industrial worker. The Plornishes in Little Dorrit are probably his best picture of a working-class family—the Peggottys, for instance, hardly belong to the working class—but on the whole he is not successful with this type of character. If you ask any ordinary reader which of Dickens’s proletarian characters he can remember, the three he is almost certain to mention are Bill Sikes, Sam Weller and Mrs. Gamp. A burglar, a valet and a drunken midwife—not exactly a representative cross-section of the English working class.

Copyright © George Orwell

Compilation copyright © 2008 by The Estate of the late Sonia Brownell Orwell

Foreword copyright © 2008 by George Packer

Introduction copyright © 2008 by Keith Gessen

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be submitted online at www.harcourt.com/contact or mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

Table of Contents

contents


Foreword by George Packer • ix


Introduction by Keith Gessen • xvii

Charles Dickens • 1


Boys’ Weeklies • 63


Inside the Whale • 95


Drama Reviews: The Tempest, The Peaceful Inn • 141


Film Review: The Great Dictator • 144


Wells, Hitler and the World State • 148


The Art of Donald McGill • 156


No, Not One • 169


Rudyard Kipling • 177


T. S. Eliot • 194


Can Socialists Be Happy? • 202


Benefit of Clergy: Some Notes on Salvador Dali • 210


Propaganda and Demotic Speech • 223


Raffles and Miss Blandish • 232


Good Bad Books • 248


The Prevention of Literature • 253


Politics and the English Language • 270


Confessions of a Book Reviewer • 287


Politics vs. Literature: An Examination of Gulliver’s Travels • 292


Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool • 316


Writers and Leviathan • 337


Review of The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene • 346


Reflections on Gandhi • 352


Notes • 363

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All Art Is Propaganda: Critical Essays 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
No Orwellian newspeak here. The clarity of Orwell's writing is astounding and provide much to think about.
bruchu on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Orwell the Pamphleteer This is a collection of essays edited by two academics with a short preface and introduction from each. There isn't a common thesis among the essays, but they loosely correspond to the notion that all art (really they mean literature) is propagandistic.Surely some of the essays stretch that notion a little too far. In fact, one could argue that several of the essays don't even related to the title of the book. Nevertheless, Orwell is still great to read, a unique and wonderful wit to his writing. An example would be: "Political writing in our time consists almost entiresly of prefabricated phrases bolted together like the pieces of a child's Meccano set" (p. 262).Orwell is strongest when he writes about totalitarianism, and class-consciousness. But the first chapters on Dickens are also very thought-provoking. His famous "Politics of the English Language" is also included. Though the editors claim that essayists like Orwell are a rare breed, one could argue that such political satire has simply transitioned into a different medium.Overall, this is a great book from one of the twentieth-century's most influential writers. While most of the material is probably accessible by other means, they are conveniently packaged in one neat book here.
jwhenderson on LibraryThing 8 months ago
A new collection of the essays of George Orwell is always welcome and this one is timely in this hyper-political election year. All Art is Propaganda is a collection of his essays bound by the theme of philosophical and aesthetic commentary. It includes such masterpieces as "Politics and the English Language", "Charles Dickens" and "Rudyard Kipling". Of particular interest in our political enthused year are the essays addressing the nature of propaganda; both directly in "Propaganda and Demotic Speech", and somewhat tangentially in "Politics and the English Language". The latter being more important includes many bits of wisdom including,"if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. Bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation, even among people who should and do know better."The usage of political speech in the twenty-first century is proof enough of Orwell's claim. Thoughtful criticism, such as Orwell's, is woefully lacking in our current day, particularly among practicing politicians and their supporters. Reading Orwell reminds one of the possibilities of fine prose. His essays never fail to be both enlightening and interesting on each of the disparate topics he addresses. I hope that some of the many readers of his novels will take the time to savor their fine prose.
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