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Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-Four

2. Becoming Orwell

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the life of George Orwell (real name: Eric Arthur Blair), focusing in particular on: (i) his family background, early life and education – St Cyprian’s and Eton; (ii) Orwell’s work in Burma, the beginning of his career as a writer, and the creation of ‘George Orwell’; (iv) Orwell’s statement that “good prose is like a windowpane”, and the extent to which Orwell’s work mixes truth with fiction; (v) the idea of the unreliable narrator, and the figure of Winston in Nineteen Eighty-Four; (vi) Orwell’s development as the writer in the 1930s, and his work for the BBC during the Second World War; (vii) his writing in the final decade of his life – Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) – and the extent to which the circumstances surrounding the writing of Nineteen Eight-Four (a remote farmhouse on the Isle of Jura while dying of tuberculosis) contributes to the bleakness of that novel.


In this course, Dr Adam Stock (York St John University) explores George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. The first four modules cover historical and literary context, including the genre of the novel, the life and career of George Orwell himself, and the political ideologies that were swirling round Europe in thirties and forties and which left their mark on the novel. The following four modules focus on the text itself, thinking about its structure, and how it engages with the concepts of time and space, history and memory, epistemology and ontology and power and language. In the final three modules, we think about some critical approaches to the novel, focusing in particular on Orwell’s presentation of nature and the natural world, and of female characters in the novel.


Dr Adam Stock is Senior Lecturer in English Literature at York St John University. As a researcher, he specialises in the interdisciplinary areas of utopian studies, science fiction and modernisms. His book Dystopian Fiction and Political Thought: Narratives of World Politics (2019) examined dystopian fiction from the first half of the twentieth century, while he is currently interested in questions about boundaries and borderlands, spatialisation, and the temporalities of speculative fiction in the twentieth and twenty-first century.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Stock, A. (2021, February 16). Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-Four - Becoming Orwell [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Stock, A. "Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-Four – Becoming Orwell." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 16 Feb 2021,