Essays on Politics and Literature

By Bernard Crick | Go to book overview

One
Literature and Politics

Originally in The Critical Quarterly, vol. 22, no. 2, (Summer 1980) and a revised version was given as the Hannah Arendt Memorial Lecture at the University of Southampton 1983.

If one set a group of good students an essay with this title, one might anticipate any or all of these interpretations: (i) the antipathy of the two concepts; (ii) their necessary interdependence; (iii) the duty of writers to commit themselves; (iv) the duty of writers not to commit themselves; (v) the influence of politics in writers; (vi) the influence of writers on politics; (vii) the clash of censorship and free expression; (viii) the control and use of writers by the state in other countries than our own; (ix) examples of good and bad political writing; (x) a case for the privatisation of public libraries; (xi) a demand for subsidies for unsuccessful writers; and (xii) a demonstration (granted certain theoretical premises) that Literature is a bourgeois concept and that the novel has a special role in maintaining the class system. There could be other angles. There are more than seven types of ambiguity. And as is said of the Irish problem, every time a solution is offered the question is changed. But Professor Flowers comes to help us all; he is general editor of a recent series of short books with the general title 'Writers and Politics': J. A. Morris, Writers and Politics in Modern Britain. C. E. Williams, Writers and Politics in Modern Germany. J. E. Flower , Writers and Politics in Modern France. John Gatt-Rutter, Writers and Politics in Modern Italy. Janet Mawby, Writers and Politics in Modern Scandanavia. J. Butt, Writers and Politics in Modern Spain, all published by Hodder and Stoughton, 1977-9.

What the series is not about is at least clear. It is not about the sociology of literature, which is a welcome change. Long before the Frankfurt Schule and the epochal birth of the Hungarian trimmer, George Lukacs, even before the coming of Raymond Williams to Cambridge, German students of Shakespeare in the 1900s used to learn all about the social composition of the audience at the Globe, who looked after the horses and when oranges were first sold in English theatres, long before they came to read the texts for themselves, still less to deconstruct them.

-1-

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Essays on Politics and Literature
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vi
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • Foreword ix
  • One - Literature and Politics 1
  • Two - The Political in Britain's Two National Theatres 20
  • Notes 47
  • Three - Young Writers of the Thirties 48
  • Four - Koestler's Koestler 62
  • Five - Hannah Arendt: Hedgehog or Fox? 72
  • Six - Beatrice Webb as English Diarist 78
  • Seven - Words 85
  • Notes 92
  • Eight - My LSE 93
  • Nine - Reading The Observer as a complex text 106
  • Notes 116
  • Ten - On the Difficulties of Writing Biography in? General and of Orwell's in particular 117
  • Eleven - Reading Nineteen Eighty-Four As Satire 133
  • Notes 163
  • Twelve - Animal Farm For Schools 166
  • Thirteen - Orwell and English Socialism 192
  • Notes 207
  • Fourteen - On the Orwell Trail 209
  • Notes 224
  • Fifteen - Wedekind's 'Spring Awakening' 225
  • Sixteen - Horvath's 'Tales From the Vienna Woods' 231
  • Seventeen - Pinter's 'No Man's Land' 239
  • Eighteen - Polly By Gaslight 245
  • Nineteen - David Edgar Catches Peter Jenkins' Ear at the Barbican 251
  • Twenty - Barrault at the Barbican 254
  • Index 257
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