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Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-Four

1. Genre: Dystopia and Horror

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the genre of Nineteen Eighty-Four, focusing in particular on: (i) what defines a literary genre – Thomas Pavel’s concept of ‘norms’ and ‘habits’, and Brian Attebery’s ‘fuzzy set’ genre theory; (ii) the extent to which Nineteen Eighty-Four has elements of more than one genre – dystopia, romance, tragedy, horror, etc.; (iii) the concepts of ‘utopia’ and ‘dystopia’ and the key characteristics of the dystopian novel in particular – the theories of Gregory Claeys and Christopher Ferns; (iv) the first dystopian novels – Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726), Jack London’s The Iron Heel (1908), E. M. Forster’s short story ‘The Machine Stops’ (1909), Yevgen Yamyatin’s We (1924), Charlotte Haldane’s Man’s World (1926) and Katharine Burdekin’s Swastika Night (1937); (v) the typical narrative of a dystopian novel; (vi) the influence of Nineteen Eighty-Four on dystopian fiction, e.g. Anthony Burgess’ 1985 (1978), Alan Moore’s graphic novel V for Vendetta (1982-89), Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 (2009), etc.; and (vii) the extent to which Nineteen Eighty-Four might be thought of as a gothic horror 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 - Genre: Dystopia and Horror [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Stock, A. "Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-Four – Genre: Dystopia and Horror." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 16 Feb 2021,