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George Orwell Now!

Preface by Richard Blair, Son of George Orwell

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Edited By Richard Lance Keeble

George Orwell remains an iconic figure today – even though he died in 1950. His dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four depicts a Big Brother society in which the state intrudes into the most intimate details of people’s lives – and, not surprisingly, it became a constant reference point after Edward Snowden’s revelations. The word «Orwellian» is constantly in the media – used either as a pejorative adjective to evoke totalitarian terror or as a complimentary adjective to mean «displaying outspoken intellectual honesty». Interest in Orwell’s life and writings – globally – continues unabated.
Beginning with a preface by Richard Blair, Orwell’s son, George Orwell Now! brings together thirteen chapters by leading international scholars in four thematic sections:
• Peter Marks on Orwell and the history of surveillance studies; Florian Zollmann on Nineteen Eighty-Four in 2014; Henk Vynckier on Orwell’s collecting project; and Adam Stock on ‘Big Brother’s Literary Offspring’
• Paul Anderson «In Defence of Bernard Crick»; Luke Seaber on the «London Section of Down and Out in Paris and London»; John Newsinger on «Orwell’s Socialism»; and Philip Bounds on «Orwell and the Anti-Austerity Left in Britain»
• Marina Remy on the «Writing of Otherness in Burmese Days and Keep the Aspidistra Flying»; Sreya Mallika Datta and Utsa Mukherjee on «Reassessing Ambivalence in Orwell’s Burma»; and Shu-chu Wei on Orwell’s Animal Farm alongside Chen Jo-his’s Mayor Yin
• Tim Crook on «Orwell and the Radio Imagination»; and editor Richard Lance Keeble on «Orwell and the War Reporter’s Imagination»
Peter Stansky, in an afterword, argues that Orwell is now more relevant than ever before.
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Chapter Three: A Portrait of the Artist as a Collector: Tracing Orwell’s Collecting Project from Burma to Big Brother

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CHAPTER THREE

A Portrait OF THE Artist AS A Collector

Tracing Orwell’s Collecting Project from Burma to Big Brother

HENK VYNCKIER



INTRODUCTION

The cultural practice of collecting has attracted a lot of attention in recent decades. As the Canadian novelist and one-time collector of vintage watches, William Gibson, commented in 1999:

The idea of the collectible is everywhere today, and sometimes strikes me as some desperate instinctive reconfiguring of the postindustrial flow, some basic mammalian response to the bewildering flood of sheer stuff we produce. But the main driving force in the tidying of the world’s attic, the drying up of random, ‘innocent’ sources of rarities, is information technology. We are mapping literally everything, from the human genome to Jaeger two-register chronographs, and our search engines grind increasingly fine.

Gibson’s statement, while offering a valuable reflection on the ways in which consumer capitalism and information technology are fueling a collecting frenzy in contemporary culture, should not obscure the fact that collecting and related practices such as stocktaking, cataloguing, and archiving originated in the ancient civilizations of the Middle East and the Mediterranean Basin, as well as China, and other early civilizations. In fact, if we are to believe one critical study of the subject, namely John Elsner and Roger Cardinal’s The Cultures of Collecting (1994), collecting can be traced back to the mythical beginnings of humanity: ‘Noah was the first collector....

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