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Rebel? Prophet? Relic? Perspectives on George Orwell in 2019

University College London (UCL)
Organization: University College London (UCL)
Categories: Literary Theory
Event Date: 2019-05-24 to 2019-05-25 Abstract Due: 2019-03-08

Rebel? Prophet? Relic?

Perspectives on George Orwell in 2019


University College London (UCL)

24-25 May 2019


John Rodden closes the preface to his 1989 book, The Politics of Literary Reputation: The Making and Claiming of ‘St. George’ Orwell with the assertion:                   

Orwell poses unusual, and valuable, difficulties by virtue of the complex, highly personal response to him by readers; and he offers unusual, if complicated, opportunities by his politicized reception and the diversity of his audiences. The rare and auspicious fact is that Orwell has been both an extraordinarily popular serious writer and a critically acclaimed one. (xiii)

Thirty years after Rodden’s ground-breaking study—and in a time of renewed political upheaval—the question remains: what do the literary scholar, the historian, the politician, and the general reader make of a writer whose reputation is best described as “protean” (xiii)?

This two-day multidisciplinary conference will consider Orwell’s place in contemporary academia, politics, and popular culture. Is he the “wintry conscience” of each generation, or the product of a society whose approach to gender, race, and sexuality is unacceptably narrow? Does his criticism remain politically potent, or has his absorption into everyday discourse dulled his social efficacy? Does a focus on his politics obscure his art? What do we talk about when we talk about George Orwell?

The conference seeks to bring together academics, activists, and journalists, as well as the organizations, like UCL’s Orwell Archive, the Orwell Foundation, and the Orwell Society, that have a stake in the writer’s literature and legacy.

Potential paper / presentation topics include (but are not limited to) Orwell’s place in / influence on:


·         The canon and popular culture

·         Literary style and political speech

·         Colonial and post-colonial discourse

·         Discussions of nationalism and / or totalitarianism

·         Discussions of surveillance and government / corporate transparency

·         The role of the public intellectual

·         Reputation formation and literary legacies

·         Discussions of working-class life and poverty


The programme will include keynote addresses from Dr. John Rodden, and Professor Jean Seaton, Director of the Orwell Foundation, as well as a presentation from staff at the Orwell Archive. The conference will take place at University College London (UCL).

Please send an abstract (with title) of approximately 250 words, along with a brief bio, to Sarah Gibbs (sarah.gibbs.17@ucl.ac.uk) by 8 March 2019. Papers will be twenty (20) minutes. Proposals from scholars and professionals at all stages of their careers are welcome.

To book a free ticket to the conference, see the Eventbrite posting:


With the Support of the Octagon Small Grants Fund.


Sarah Gibbs