Orwell and the Arts

Richard Lance Keeble describes the latest issue of George Orwell Studies.

‘Orwell and the arts’ is the theme of the latest bumper issue (Volume 3 Number 1) of George Orwell Studies. Six contrasting papers given at a symposium at Goldsmiths, University of London, on 30 May 2018, are carried in the journal which is completely independent of The Orwell Society.

In the keynote, Professor Len Platt examines the merging of styles in Orwell’s writings which makes them complex cultural and literary phenomena. Professor Richard Lance Keeble next examines the centrality of sex in the Orwellian oeuvre which, he suggests, has been largely missed by critics and biographers. In particular, Keeble examines Orwell’s ground-breaking essay on the saucy seaside postcards of Donald McGill published in Cyril Connolly’s literary journal Horizon in September 1941. While Keeble acknowledges the feminist critique that Orwell’s life and writing could, at times, be described as ‘misogynistic’, he also argues that he had another side in which he was able to explore and represent his own sexuality with remarkable candour – and even celebrate the pleasures of sex!

Professor Douglas Kerr puts the spotlight on the episode in Burmese Days when the central character, Flory, escorts Elizabeth Lackersteen to see a Burmese pwe dance, performed in a street in the town of Kyauktada. According to Kerr, the pwe ritual offers a transformative opportunity to understand ‘highbrow and popular Western ideas of performance, and of the Orient’ in the modern age.

GOS 0301 cover-1

2017 was Nicola Rossi’s ‘Year of Orwell’. Her recognition in The Orwell Society’s Student Fiction Competition inspired her to keep on writing and she read to the conference a chapter (reproduced here) from her new work in the dystopian tradition.

Glenn Ibbitson next argues that so many visual artists identify with Orwell because his work powerfully advances the principle of the freedom of the individual to think independently. Ibbitson curates an online platform ‘Room 103’ where artists engaged in visual media can present work inspired by ‘Orwellian’ themes.

Finally, in ‘Orwell, Poetry and the Microphone’, Professor Tim Crook, who guest edits the issue, examines Orwell’s writing aesthetic – particularly as it was applied to his work for radio.

Other papers carried in the 138-page issue though not connected with the symposium include ‘Orwell and the Appeal of Opium’ by Darcy Moore and ‘Orwell as Social Patriot – and British Cinema Studies’ by Martin Stollery.


Uploaded December 11 2018



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