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Title: Re-conditioning England : George Orwell and the social problem novel
Author: Mechie, Calum C.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5215 3332
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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"What can the England of 1940 have in common with the England of 1840? But then, what have you in common with the child of five whose photograph your mother keeps on the mantelpiece? Nothing, except that you happen to be the same person". This comes from George Orwell's wartime pamphlet The Lion and the Unicorn in which, according to Tosco Fyvel, he sought "to identify himself with England in its finest hour". Orwell offered a more prosaic justification – "I don't share the average English intellectual's hatred of his own country" – in one of his regular "London Letters" to the American Partisan Review and from these three sources a complex constellation of questions emerges. The issue at stake is Orwell's relationship with his country and it involves ideas of identity, history, ownership, love, hatred, community and, crucially, his position as spokesperson. Drawing and expanding upon work on Orwell and Englishness, focusing on Orwell's often overlooked originality as a novelist and challenging Raymond Williams' influential account in Orwell and Culture and Society, "Re-Conditioning England" seeks to negotiate a path through this complex of questions. This path, as the title and opening quotation imply, is guided by the past and by Orwell's engagement with the mid-nineteenth century mode of social realism. It is informed by Williams' conception of the novel as a "knowable community" and Benedict Anderson's of the nation as an "imagined community". A chronological and contextual study, the thesis pays attention, throughout, to both when and where Orwell wrote. It places his work within contemporary debates over the status of Charles Dickens, poetry, language and the nation to the end of arguing: in his engagement with contemporary social-problems, Orwell first consciously updates and then self-consciously critiques the nineteenth-century genre of condition-of-England writing.
Supervisor: Marcus, Laura Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English Language and Literature ; English and Old English literature ; George Orwell ; Englishness ; England