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Every Intellectual's Big Brother

By John Rodden

Publication Year: 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.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Series: Literary Modernism Series


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. ix-x

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Prologue: "Orwell" Still Lives

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pp. xi-xiii

In May 2003, I co-chaired, along with my friend Thomas Cushman, a three-day centenary retrospective on Orwell’s work and heritage titled “George Orwell: An Exploration of His World and Legacy.” The international event was hosted by Wellesley College, near Boston, and it was one of the biggest Orwell gatherings ever held, as close to three hundred participants...

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Introduction: George Orwell and His Intellectual Progeny

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pp. 1-5

George Orwell (1903– 1950) was the foremost political writer of the twentieth century and the widely acknowledged contemporary master of plain English prose. The following chapters orbit around Orwell’s intellectual legacy and cultural impact, focusing especially on his deep and ongoing influence on the generations of Anglo-American intellectuals that followed him. ...

Part One: Their Orwell, Left and Right

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Chapter One: "Not One of Us?" Orwell and London Left of the 1930s ad '40s

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pp. 9-32

Historians and social theorists have written extensively about the modern intellectual’s class origins, political allegiances, and social function.1 Yet, as Charles Kadushin notes, “Despite (or perhaps because of) the many works on intellectuals, there is no adequate sociological theory of intellectuals or intellectual life. . . . Theory-building in this field has been marred by an abundance of opinion and moralization, a dearth of facts, ...

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Chapter Two: "A Moral Genius": Orwell and the Movement Writers of the 1950s

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pp. 33-54

Although Orwell’s significance for understanding the London Left of the interwar and wartime era is well-known, it is also true that no British writer has had a greater impact on the Anglo-American generation which came of age in the decade following World War II than George Orwell. ...

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Chapter Three: "London Letter" from a Family Cousin: The New York Intellectual's Adoption of Orwell

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pp. 55-74

The first two chapters focused exclusively on Orwell’s British reputation. Now we will turn to Orwell’s American reception, attending to the emergence of his reputation in literary New York by the so-called New York Intellectuals. No other group’s reception of Orwell has borne so decisively on the growth and shape of his American and even his international...

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Chapter Four: "A Leftist by Accident?" Orwell and the American Cultural Conservatives

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pp. 75-88

Orwell’s rising reputation, especially in the United States in the 1950s, co-incided with the birth of American cultural conservatism in its contemporary guise. And indeed the enthusiastic reception accorded to him by American conservatives not only contributed strongly to his Cold Warrior status during the decade but also exerted powerful influence upon American...

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Chapter Five: Does Orwell Matter? Between Fraternity and Fratricide and the Nation

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pp. 89-110

George Orwell has long been a subject of contention among the writers of the Nation. In the 1940s, the Nation and the New Republic were the only non-communist American magazines to criticize Orwell sharply. In many respects, the reception of Orwell’s work in the Nation mirrored his treatment...

Part Two: Orwell's Literary Siblings Today

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Chapter Six: Iraq, the Internet, and "the Big O" in 2003: A Centennial Report

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pp. 113-144

At the George Orwell Centenary Conference, which was held in May 2003 at Wellesley College, Massachusetts, I had the great pleasure to interview numerous speakers and participants for a documentary film about Orwell’s relevance both to their personal lives and to the twenty-first century. My interviewees cooperated fully, despite some awkward moments with our sound equipment and other inconveniences of the filmmaking process. ...

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Chapter Seven: The Man within the Writings

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pp. 145-166

Q: What does Orwell still have to say to intellectuals today?
Richard Kostelanetz:
Simply to always see clearly and always tell the truth concisely. ...

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Chapter Eight: Unlessons from My Intellectual Big Brother

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pp. 167-179

Dear George,
Until you entered my life, I vaguely imagined I would become a professor much like those whom I had admired as an undergraduate and as a graduate student, a specialist in Wordsworth’s Prelude or a scholar who had mastered the minutiae of literary modernism. ...

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Epilogue: On the Ethics of Literary Reputations

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pp. 181-191

On reading Animal Farm, the poet William Empson, Orwell’s wartime colleague at the BBC and the author of Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930), wrote him: “You must expect to be ‘misunderstood’ on a large scale.”1 Yes—and, as the foregoing scenes of “Orwell and the Intellectuals” demonstrate, he often has been. ...


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pp. 193-244


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pp. 245-248


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pp. 249-263

E-ISBN-13: 9780292795457
E-ISBN-10: 0292795459
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292713086
Print-ISBN-10: 0292713088

Page Count: 280
Illustrations: 18 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2006

Series Title: Literary Modernism Series
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OCLC Number: 320324373
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Every Intellectual's Big Brother

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Subject Headings

  • Orwell, George, -- 1903-1950 -- Political and social views.
  • Orwell, George, 1903-1950 -- Criticism and interpretation -- History.
  • Orwell, George, 1903-1950 -- Influence.
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