The Politics of Literary Reputation: The Making and Claiming of "St. George" Orwell

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Oxford University Press, 1989 - Canon (Literature). - 478 pages
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George Orwell's Animal Farm and 1984 have sold 40 million copies in 65 languages, more than any other pair of books by a single writer in history. Since his death in 1950, he has served as a personal and intellectual model for groups of writers across the political spectrum, ranging from the
New Left radicals to the New York Intellectuals to the John Birch Society. But his literary achievement alone does not account for the intense admiration--and, in some circles, contempt--in which successive generations have held him. How did his reputation develop? And what can his reputation's
history tell us about artistic reputation in general?
The Politics of Literary Reputation offers the first systematic study of artistic reputation as well as a fascinating account of one writer's ascension to literary sainthood. It provides a searching analysis of the many issues radiating from the name and work of the most controversial political
writer of the twentieth century. Indeed, by using Orwell as a lens through which to view the myriad events which his writings have influenced, Rodden achieves nothing less than a panoramic cultural history of the postwar West. The book discloses how the recent Soviet publication of 1984 reveals some
of the paradoxes of perestroika; how the first BBC-TV adaptation of 1984 in 1954 signalled the changing conditions of reputation-building in the media age; how Orwell's exclusion from the high canon of modern British literature reflects a long-standing academic bias against the political novel;
how the ambivalent response to Orwell by feminist critics reveals numerous tensions within feminism; how Orwell's status as the best-selling modern British writer in West Germany derives from German Angst about the nazi era; how Orwell's premature death made him ripe for the If Orwell Were Alive
Today claims to his mantle made by the Right and the Left; and how the criticism of the New York Intellectuals, including Lionel Trilling, Irving Howe, and Norman Podhoretz, actually forms much more a portrait of their ideal self-images--of the (very different) men whom they themselves were seeking
to become--than of George Orwell.
The protean shape of Orwell's reputation makes him a fertile source of insight into the general processes of reputation-building. Through this portrait gallery of Orwell's public images, readers will begin to understand, as Malcolm Muggeridge put in speaking of Orwell, how the legend of a human
being is created.

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About the author (1989)

About the Author:
John Rodden teaches in the Department of Rhetoric and Communication Studies at the University of Virginia.

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