'In front of your nose': the existentialism of George Orwell

Dulley, Paul Richard (2015) 'In front of your nose': the existentialism of George Orwell. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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George Orwell’s reputation as a writer rests largely upon his final two works, selected essays and some of his journalism. As a novelist, he is often considered limited, and it is for this reason that his writing has perhaps received less serious attention than that of many of his contemporaries.

Some recent publications have sought to redress this balance, identifying an impressive level of artistry, not only in his more recognised works, but in the neglected novels of the 1930s. Yet, aside from studies focused upon his political beliefs, there has been a lack of attention given to the wider ideas underpinning Orwell’s writing, in particular, those which might be considered, in popular terms, ‘existential’.

Given its unusually firm grounding in the many experiences he underwent, Orwell’s thought, I argue, can be viewed profitably from this philosophical standpoint. By engaging his writing in a dialogue with that of the phenomenological-existentialist thinkers, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Emmanuel Levinas, this project aims to make sense of the ideas implicit within his work. Where the work of the aforementioned figures is often opaque and highly abstracted, it will be shown that Orwell’s offers the reader literary and real-life exemplars as a means of making difficult ideas understood.

The study is divided into four two-part chapters, which track the Orwell canon in a broadly chronological fashion. In parallel with this, the ideas of the existential philosophers are, too, introduced chronologically: Heidegger, Sartre and, Levinas.

The thesis attempts to argue that understanding the implicit existentialism in the work of Orwell not only offers a more complete insight into the man, and the tensions inherent in his character, but also affords the reader many much-needed exemplifications, and in some cases augmentations, of some of the most important ideas in existentialist philosophy.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > English
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR6000 1900-1960 > PR6029.R8 Orwell, George
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 09 Oct 2015 10:06
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:49
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/56743

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