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DystopiaA Natural History$
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Gregory Claeys

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198785682

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198785682.001.0001

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Vaporizing the Soviet Myth

Vaporizing the Soviet Myth

Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four

(p.390) 7 Vaporizing the Soviet Myth

Gregory Claeys

Oxford University Press

Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) remains the greatest of all the literary dystopias. Big Brother, thoughtcrime, doublethink, the telescreen, Newspeak: this ‘Orwellian’ vocabulary is almost identical with how we imagine ‘totalitarianism’ and other forms of the surveillance state. With its remarkable precursor, Animal Farm (1945), it has probably outsold all the rest of the utopias and dystopias ever written put together. This chapter provides a contextual assessment of the development of Orwell’s social and political thought from the early 1930s onwards. It summarizes the considerable secondary literature on the text, and portrays the leading fault lines of criticism in terms of internalist and contextual readings of the novel itself. Some of the most important themes in the text are re-examined in light of both approaches.

Keywords:   Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell, literary dystopia, surveillance state, totalitarianism, social and political thought

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