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The Betrayal of Dissent
Beyond Orwell, Hitchens and the New American Century
Scott Lucas
Pluto Press, 2004
Since his death in 1950, George Orwell has been canonised as England's foremost
political writer, and the standard-bearer of honesty and decency for the honourable 'Left'. In this controversial polemic, Scott Lucas argues that the exaltation of Orwell, far from upholding dissent against the State, has sought to quash such opposition. Indeed, Orwell has become the icon of those who, in the pose of the contrarian, try to silence public opposition to US and U K foreign policy in the 'War on Terror'.

Lucas's lively and readable critique of public intellectuals including Christopher Hitchens, Michael Walzer, David Aaronovitch, and Johann Hari – who have all invoked Orwellian honesty and decency to shut down dissent – will appeal to anyone disillusioned with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Lucas contends that these leading journalists and commentators have used Orwell to justify their own political transition from radicals to upholders of the establishment. All of them play influential roles in supporting the UK and US governments' charge that opponents of war -- and those who question the motives behind American foreign policy and its implementation -- should be condemned as 'appeasers of mass murder'.

This controversial book shows how Orwell has been used since 9/11 to justify, in the guise of independent thought, the suppression of dissent. We must rescue ourselves from Orwell and from those who take on his guise so, as Lucas puts it, our ‘silencing is… vital to a "manufacture of consent" for the wars which are supposedly being fought in our name and for our good’.

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Every Intellectual's Big Brother
George Orwell's Literary Siblings
By John Rodden
University of Texas Press, 2006

George Orwell has been embraced, adopted, and co-opted by everyone from the far left to the neoconservatives. Each succeeding generation of Anglo-American intellectuals has felt compelled to engage the life, work, and cultural afterlife of Orwell, who is considered by many to have been the foremost political writer of the twentieth century. Every Intellectual's Big Brother explores the ways in which numerous disparate groups, Orwell's intellectual "siblings," have adapted their views of Orwell to fit their own agendas and how in doing so they have changed our perceptions of Orwell himself. By examining the politics of literary reception as a dimension of cultural history, John Rodden gives us a better understanding of Orwell's unique and enduring role in Anglo-American intellectual life.

In Part One, Rodden opens the book with a section titled "Their Orwell, Left and Right," which focuses on Orwell's reception by several important literary circles of the latter half of the twentieth century. Beginning with Orwell's own contemporaries, Rodden addresses the ways various intellectual groups of the 1950s responded to Orwell. Rodden then moves on in Part Two to what he calls the "Orwell Confraternity Today," those contemporary intellectuals who have, in various ways, identified themselves with or reacted against Orwell. The author concludes by examining how Orwell's status as an object of admiration and detraction has complicated the way in which he has been perceived by readers since his death.


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Hope Lies in the Proles
George Orwell and the Left
John Newsinger
Pluto Press, 2018
Few figures on the left are as widely heralded as George Orwell. Yet his actual politics are poorly understood. Hope Lies in the Proles corrects that, offering a sympathetic yet critical account of Orwell’s often muddied political thinking and its continued relevance today. John Newsinger takes up various aspects of Orwell’s personal politics, exploring his attempts to change working-class consciousness, considering it alternately romantic, realistic, and patronizing—and at times all three at once. He examines Orwell’s antifascism, and how it fits in with his criticism of the Soviet Union; looks into his relationship with the Labour Party and feminism; and delves into Orwell’s shifting views on the United States. The result is the clearest understanding we’ve ever had of Orwell’s politics and their legacy.

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Modernity and Progress
Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Orwell
Ronald Berman
University of Alabama Press, 2007
Breaks new critical ground by exploring philosophical and aesthetic issues germane to the writings of three major modern literary figures.

In the 1920s and ‘30s, understandings of time, place, and civilization were subjected to a barrage of new conceptions. Ronald Berman probes the work of three writers who wrestled with one or more of these issues in ways of lasting significance.

Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Orwell all grappled with fluid notions of time: Hemingway’s absolute present, Fitzgerald’s obsession with what might be and what might have been, and Orwell’s concerns with progress. For these authors, progress is also tied to competing senses of place--for Fitzgerald, the North versus the South; for Hemingway, America versus Europe. At stake for each is an understanding of what constitutes true civilization in a post-war world. Berman discusses Hemingway’s deployment of language in tackling the problems of thinking and knowing. Berman follows this notion further in examining the indisputable impact upon Hemingway’s prose of Paul Cézanne’s painting and the nature of perception.

Finally, Berman considers the influence on Orwell of Aristotle and Freud’s ideas of civilization, translated by Orwell into the fabric of 1984 and other writings.

Ronald Berman is Professor of English at the University of California at San Diego and past chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is author of six books, including “The Great Gatsby” and Fitzgerald’s World of Ideas and Fitzgerald-Wilson-Hemingway: Language and Experience.


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Or Orwell
Writing and Democratic Socialism
Alex Woloch
Harvard University Press, 2016

There have been many studies of George Orwell’s life and work, but nothing quite like this book by Alex Woloch—an exuberant, revisionary account of Orwell’s writing.

“Good prose is like a window-pane,” Orwell famously avers. But what kind of literary criticism is possible, face-to-face with Orwell’s plain-style prose? Too often this style has been either dismissed by a seemingly more savvy critical theory, or held up as a reprimand against the enterprise of theory. In a series of unusually close and intensive readings—focused on the unstable event of writing itself—Woloch recovers the radical and experimental energies of Orwell’s prose. Against accounts that would quickly naturalize Orwell’s truthfulness or reduce his window-pane prose to bad faith, Woloch’s study bears down on a propulsive irony and formal restlessness that have always been intertwined with Orwell’s plain-style. Such restlessness, far from diluting Orwell’s democratic and socialist politics, is at its aesthetic and conceptual core.

The first half of Or Orwell ranges across his nonfiction prose, including new readings of “A Hanging,” The Road to Wigan Pier, and Inside the Whale. The second half develops an extended analysis of a single writing project: Orwell’s eighty “As I Please” newspaper columns, written for the Socialist weekly Tribune. Moving through multiple forms and genres, testing the limits of each, Orwell emerges in Woloch’s fine-grained account as a boldly unconventional writer and a central figure in twentieth-century literature and political thought.


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Life and Art
Jeffrey Meyers
University of Illinois Press, 2010
This remarkable volume collects, for the first time, essays representing more than four decades of scholarship by one of the world's leading authorities on George Orwell. In clear, energetic prose that exemplifies his indefatigable attention to Orwell's life work, Jeffrey Meyers analyzes the works and reception of one of the most widely read and admired twentieth-century authors.
Orwell: Life and Art covers the novelist's painful childhood and presents accounts of his autobiographical writings from the beginning of his career through the Spanish Civil War. Meyers continues with analyses of Orwell's major works, including Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, as well as his style, distinctive satiric humor, and approach to the art of writing. Meyers ends with a scrupulous examination of six biographies of Orwell, including his own, that embodies a consummate grasp and mastery of both the art of biography and Orwell's life and legacy.
Writing with an authority born of decades of focused scholarship, visits to Orwell's homes and workplaces, and interviews with his survivors, Meyers sculpts a dynamic view of Orwell's enduring influence on literature, art, culture, and politics.

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The Orwell Mystique
A Study in Male Ideology
Daphne Patai
University of Massachusetts Press, 1984
One hundred years after the publication of Looking Backward, Bellamy remains a controversial figure in American literary and social history. The collection of essays in this volume, commemorating the novel's appearance in 1888, attests to his continued importance.

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The Revised Orwell
Jonathan Rose
Michigan State University Press, 1992

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Slave State
Rereading Orwell's 1984
David Lowenthal
St. Augustine's Press, 2021
David Lowenthal transposes present society onto that in the novel, 1984, and illustrates “how the quest for a perfect society led instead to the worst––in the course of revolting against which the true ends of life are established.” It is more than suspicion: the year 2021 is 1984. What many understand by instinct, Lowenthal here articulates in clear terms using the political prophesy of this no longer futuristic literature. To be one without truthful unity? This is the picture of human brotherhood ushering in the only thing worse than inequality––enslavement. 

There is no positive political message in 1984, argues Lowenthal, but there is positive moral message that is nearly always overlooked by commentators. “Through the movement of the novel, Orwell tries to impress on the passions, hearts and minds of his readers the most valuable lessons concerning the right and wrong way to live. With the decline of Christianity’s influence in forming the moral sense of the West and the concomitant increase in power hunger, wielding instruments born of modern enlightenment, what mankind most needed was moral guidance, conveyed not abstractly, through philosophy, but in such a way as to grip the whole soul.” 

But can Orwell be trusted as a guide to the goodness in human nature? Lowenthal says he can be, and more. He gives us a sketch of the intellectual process that compels Orwell to ultimately outgrow Marxism, his detection and rejection of totalitarian regimes (above all in Communism), and in what way the principles of liberalism of his day were given warning labels by a writer who was not a formally educated political philosopher. Laced with relativism, any current of thought that does not acknowledge the proper ends of man will be effaced by the next master of the masses. Lowenthal echoes Orwell when he says, “we have abandoned inculcating good citizenship, higher ideals and a sense of personal worth in the schools, encouraging instead an aimless low-level conformist ‘individuality’ just waiting to be harnessed together and directed. Given these conditions, can we be sure we have left the conditions to the horrors of 1984 far behind as mere fiction?”

Orwell and Lowenthal are unlikely co-collaborators, unless one perceives how much alike in their exhortations to fellow man they are. The steady tenor of their hard warning is made possible by a hope-soaked confidence that, in utter sobriety, is repulsed by anything that threatens human freedom and dignity. This book is required reading for anyone who believes in the return of socialism. Indeed, any recent university graduate should be debriefed by Lowenthal before entering the real world.  

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Storm Warnings
Science Fiction Confronts the Future
George E Slusser
Southern Illinois University Press, 1987

These 17 original essays, written for the sixth Eaton Conference on Fantasy and Science Fiction, explore the uses, origins, and forms of future fiction. The contributors are George E. Slusser, Paul Alkon, Marie-Hélène Huet, Howard V. Hendrix, Bradford Lyau, Gregory Benford, José Manuel Mota, Frederik Pohl, George Hay, Colin Greenland, John Huntington, Elizabeth Maslen, W. M. S. and Claire Russell, T. A. Shippey, Kenneth V. Bailey, Gary Kern, and Frank McConnell.

The essays address the question “Do we call up images of future societies in order to prepare for them, or to forestall their ever coming into existence?”


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The Unexamined Orwell
By John Rodden
University of Texas Press, 2011

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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