George Orwell: Into the Twenty-First Century

George Orwell: Into the Twenty-First Century

George Orwell: Into the Twenty-First Century

George Orwell: Into the Twenty-First Century

Synopsis

The year 2003 was the 100th anniversary of the birth of George Orwell, one of the most influential authors of the twentieth century. Orwell's books are assigned today in over 60,000 classrooms annually. In this book essays by prominent writers and scholars explain why his impact continues in a world much changed from his own. The essays explore new aspects of Orwell's life and work and his continuing relevance for the interpretation of modern social, political, and cultural affairs. Thematic topics include: the use and abuse of 1984; ideas, ideologues, and intellectuals; biography and autobiography; literary and stylistic analyses; and the reception of Orwell's work abroad. The volume is an ideal secondary source for those who continue to be influenced by Orwell's insights and for teachers of Orwell's work. Contributors: Christopher Hitchens, Jonathan Rose, Ian Williams, Morris Dickstein, John Rodden, Thomas Cushman, Ronald F. Thiemann, Lawrence Rosenwald, Todd Gitlin, Erika Gottlieb, Dennis Wrong, Daphne Patai, Jim Sleeper, William Cain, Lynette Hunter, Margery Sabin, Vladimir Shalpentokh, Miquel Berga, Gilbert Bonifas, Robert Conquest.

Excerpt

On May 1 through 3, 2003, Wellesley College hosted the George Orwell Centenary Conference, which was the single largest world event commemorating Orwell’s life and work on the hundredth anniversary of his birth. The event featured leading Orwell scholars, writers, and public intellectuals who have been influenced by Orwell’s thinking and who engaged Orwell’s work as a catalyst for their own thinking on a wide variety of issues. The essays assembled in this volume are a result of this conference and testify to the sustained interest in this most enigmatic of writers and to his enduring influence into the twenty-first century.

There is a curious irony in such a commemorative event. As is well known, Orwell willed that no biography of him should appear after his death, perhaps an entirely unreasonable expectation given his prominence in twentieth-century literary life. The event would probably have been disdained by Orwell himself. One imagines that his desire not to be the subject of a biography or centenary conference might be based on his suspicion of the possibilities of hagiography implicit in such enterprises. To be sure, as several authors in this volume point out, there has been much sanctification of Orwell since his death.

The object of this conference, however, was not to celebrate Orwell, let alone contribute to the ongoing hagiography of “St. George Orwell,” although a certain degree of honor is inherent in the centennial celebration of a writer. One does not usually hold centenary conferences for people whom one disdains. The germ of any centenary event is usually a sense of esteem and common recognition of intellectual influence. Centenary events are, in some sense, rituals of solidarity with the dead. However, the intention of our conference, and of the present volume, was not to foster a spirit of uncritical admiration of Orwell. This is something that Orwell would have utterly scorned, since he was aware not only of his own shortcomings and limitations but also those of others. As a result, the essays here reflect a range of thinking about Orwell’s life and work and its continuing relevance for understanding society and culture in the new millennium. Central to the volume is the belief that Orwell’s observations about the politics and culture of the twentieth century remain as relevant as ever for interpreting the events and complexities of the twenty-first century.

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