Academic journal article Anarchist Studies

Unmaking Merlin, Anarchist Tendencies in English Literature

Academic journal article Anarchist Studies

Unmaking Merlin, Anarchist Tendencies in English Literature

Article excerpt

Elliot Murphy, Unmaking Merlin, Anarchist Tendencies in English Literature Winchester: Zero Books, 2013; 198pp; ISBN 9781782795759

In Unmaking Merlin Elliot Murphy discusses neoliberalism through the lens of English literature and political philosophy. It is necessarily a personal take on the issue, as a book this size could never claim to cover the full scale of libertarian ideas within English literature.

However, it is epic in terms of the sheer number of authors and works that are referenced - Murphy has provided a book that shows an astonishing and thorough understanding of the subject matter. Murphy's approach often comes across as a stream of consciousness, particularly in the first two chapters, but the book then becomes a much more stable and formulaic account of the subject. It nevertheless continues to reference myriad authors and works, heading off on diverse tangents and covering many topics as a result.

The book really comes into its own in the third chapter on 'Atheists, statists and English Literati', which discusses some modern writers on areas such as atheism and war. Murphy compares writers such as Orwell, Wilde and Russell with those of a few decades later who do not disseminate libertarian ideas. Thus is built a picture of the state of modern writing in the public consciousness, which is effortlessly linked to a discussion in the following chapter on education and self-education amongst working class writers. This effectively transforms the piece into a narrative on the use of English literature to disseminate ideas, and education becomes a recurring theme within the critique of neoliberalism.

In any book of this sort the reader naturally thinks of seemingly missing themes and other titles that could have been mentioned. There is some satisfaction to be gained from imagining references missing from the book and directions that could have been taken. For example, I was expecting mention of dystopian science-fiction disaster novels - John Wyndham's Day of the Triffids being a standout example which encompasses themes of survival in the days after government collapse. …

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