Aesthetica Preprint, 5 (September 1984)

Orwell "1984": il testo

The present volume brings together the papers presented at the one-day Symposium "Orwell «1984»: il testo", as well as few other essays. The Symposium was organized in Palermo by the International Study Center on Aesthetics on March 10, 1984.

Franco Marenco, "1984": the poverty of a negative Utopia
1984 is analysed in the context of the utopian tradition, and in that of Orwell's own intellectual system and achievement. If the form of More's Utopia consists in the inversion of that state of affairs in contemporary Europe, the form of 1984 is the inversion of the utopian expectation: the present must control the past and the future alike. The novel is structured on a series of converging oppositions: love changes into hated, the sense of human dignity fosters betrayal, rebellion ends in abject resignation. The logic of liberation comes more and more to resemble the logic of oppression: the Brotherhood's rules and Goldstein himself are only reflections of the totalitarian system. In O'Brien, the revolutionary leadership coincides with the power that represses it. In its guidelines, this inverted Utopia derives from Orwell's distrust for his fellow intellectuals and their role in society. In a world divided between the haves and the havenots, "culture" belongs, in his view, to one side only, and this makes of "revolution" and "consciousness" the two opposing, irreconcilable halves of an old synonym. The "proles" are seen in the centre of this contradiction, which condemns their culture to ineffectiveness and obscurity. Compared with his previous books, The Road to Wigan Pier and Homage to Catalonia, Orwell's negative Utopia appears to be built on a greatly impoverished notion of events and activities such as "work", "living", "begetting" and "dying", i.e. on a preanthropological idea of culture. Thus Orwell ends up by contradicting his critique of the intellectual élite, and agreeing with O'Brien's slogan: «All happenings are in the mind».

Romolo Runcini, Experiencing writing and writing about experience: the split word in "1984"
Three writinglevels are pointed out in a sociolinguistic examination of George Orwell's 1984, namely the narrator's tale, the protagonist's diary and the two documents (Goldstein's book and the pamphlet about Newspeak). Such an approach can explain the trends along which both the fabula and the narrator's aims develop. These are referred to the devaluation of experience and human relationships which take place in the totalitarian and overprogrammed world of mass society. The realism of the fabula reveals the authorcreator's belief in the possibility to communicate ethical and political values; on the other hand, the protagonist's diary, though scarcely drafted, stresses the impossibility of individual experience. The two documents, finally, emphasize the linguistic trap in to which the communication system is drawn when manipulated by political power.

Vita Fortunati, «It makes no difference»: "1984" as a Utopia of simulation and of difference
The underlying basic hypothesis of this study is that in order to understand fully Orwell's antiUtopia, we must go back to the literary genre of Utopia. The essence of Utopia lies in the speculative game between reality and "proposal", expressed as a political proposition of what should be to be counterpoised to the given reality of what is. From this point of view 1984 marks the end of Utopia or at least its impossibility. In Oceania everything is Utopia, the proposal has engulfed reality and Utopia is impossible because Utopia has already been totally realised, the ideal referent has been eclipsed and in its place there is now a simulacrum. This universe of simulation works on a sole energy source: power, power which no longer has as its "telos" the organization of society, but which is now a end in itself, desired purely for itself. Utopia thus becomes recreation of reality, which represents the end of History, which can now be rewritten and recreated endlessly as a series of simulacra. Within the framework of this hypothesis the following points are developed: 1) 1984 as the end of Utopia; 2) 1984 as a Utopia of simulation; 3) 1984 as a panoptic Utopia and its improvement; 4) 1984 as a Utopia of indifference; 5) 1984 as a parody of all the utopian works which have preceded it. As a further critical attack on the essence and insufficiency of utopian societies, the study draws attention to the way in which in 1984 Orwell introduces two themes that have are generally taken little place in utopian literature: sex and crime.

Carlo Pagetti, "1984": news from the day after
In his essays and letters, Orwell often emphasized the "memorable" quality of a literary text, linking it with the way in which it influenced the reader's perception not only of "literature", but also of history and reality. Although discredited since the '30s, H. G. Wells is still, according to Orwell, the best example of a writer who created a new popular consciousness through his imaginary futures. "Memory and Desire" are strictly connected with the conception of a future world: the day after WWII was bound to reveal a new reality in which "art" and "society" would be moulded into different shapes. In order to become the trustworthy witness of the "day after", Orwell conceived a narrative technique based on a complex mixture of utopian fantasy, romance and of sociological naturalism. If 1984 can be seen as the last stage of communication - artistic, political, sentimental - it should be also read as a novel about memory and desire, in which the disintegration of the past, accomplished by a new class of intellectuals enslaved by political myths, becomes the vehicle of a narrative message in search of readers, longing for survival. Is the book itself transformed into a Journal ­ a metafictional text ­ through which Orwell can exorcise decay and death, tracing their devastating effects on the social body as well as on the body of the writer himself. Thus, one of the keys to the interpretation of 1984 at the same time a popular and a cryptic book, lies in the will of the novel to testify for future generations a period of destruction reconstructed in writing, recreated in a document of private and public relevance. The struggle of a dying artist, the «last man in Europe» himself, is preserved and recorded in the pages of his Doomsday journal. "Memory and Desire", as empty, manipulated concepts, denys a historical role to the intellectual, but, as fictional symbols, confirms his power to face and describe the formless chaos of contemporary experience, reaffirms his right to remember and to be remembereds forever.

Giuseppe Sertoli, "1984": secrecy, identity, and power
The essay draws on some recent psychoanalytic theories about the role of secrets in order to reveal the conflict which splits Winston's identity and which forms the basis for the whole novel. On the one hand, the pursuit and practice of secrecy allow Winston to create a self which is independent from and in opposition to the one the Party intends to impose on him. But, on the other hand, such a self is purely imaginary, as the secret of the rats, which goes back to childhood traumas and is a symbol of repressed guilt, shows that Winston's true identity is the same as the collective one of the Party. Consequently O'Brien is not Winston's antagonist but his double, that part of himself which he has been unwilling to recognize and has projected outside himself. The central question in 1984 - why power? what is the willtopower? - changes then from a political question to a psychologicalethical one or, rather, an anthropological one. And if this transformation constitutes the deepest level of Orwell's (self)critical insight it must also be seen as a constraint on his argument and his "left wing" culture itself.