The Unexamined Orwell

9780292743885: Paperback
Release Date: 15th May 2012

72 b&w photos

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 415

Series Literary Modernism

University of Texas Press

The Unexamined Orwell

Paperback / £34.00

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."

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction. Afterthoughts on His Afterlives
  • Part One. If the Mantle Fits . . .
    • Chapter 1. Virtuous Men? or "The American Orwell" (I)
    • Chapter 2. "Dear Dwight," or "The American Orwell" (II)
    • Chapter 3. "St. Irving"? or "The American Orwell" (III)
    • Chapter 4. Fellow Contrarians? or "The (Anglo-)American Orwell" (IV)
    • Chapter 5. "True Patriot and Traditionalist," or the (Hungarian-)American Orwell (V)
  • Part Two. Politics and the German Language
    • Chapter 6. The (Un-rosy) State of Orwellian Unlearning
    • Chapter 7. Books That Led to Miniluv
    • Chapter 8. 2 + 2 = 5?
    • Chapter 9. Behind the Wall, or How the Eurasian Reich Viewed Oceania
    • Chapter 10. Revenge of the Thought Police
  • Part Three. The Un(der)examined Orwell
    • Chapter 11. Did Papa Rescue St. George?
    • Chapter 12. Big Rock (Sugar)candy Mountain?
    • Chapter 13. Literacy and the English Language
    • Chapter 14. George Orwell, Literary Theorist?
    • Chapter 15. The Architectonics of Room 101
    • Chapter 16. The Review Orwell Never Wrote?
    • Chapter 17. The Life Orwell Never Lived?
    • Chapter 18. The Centenarian, Our Contemporary
  • Conclusion. If He Had Lived . . .
  • Notes
  • Index

John Rodden has been a faculty member at the University of Virginia, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Pennsylvania, among other institutions. He has published more than twenty books on topics ranging from British literary criticism and American intellectual history to comparative international education, European communism and post-communism, and the politics of human rights.