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English Literature   >   Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-Four

Genre: Dystopia and Horror

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Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-Four

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.

Genre: Dystopia and Horror

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.

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,


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Dr Adam Stock

York St John University