Saturday, March 5, 2016

Orwell: Precursor for Popular Culture - John Michael Roberts

 ~ Click on the link above to read John Michael Roberts's analysis of Orwell ~

"Orwell does not claim to speak for others, but claims, instead, to speak from his own embodied experience within which he momentarily experiences the embodied experience of others. Orwell not only therefore explores themes in cultural studies that have since become established parts of the discipline’s canon, he also shows how cultural and social commentators might transform their own embodied experiences into matters of public concern" (Michaels 230).

John Michael Roberts, professor at Brunel University and scholar from the Journal for Cultural Research, argues George Orwell as wrongly unacknowledged by writers of popular culture. Orwell's work, though from years and years ago, is tremendously relevant today. Roberts labels Orwell's literary footprint as exceptional, as Orwell's stylistic choices have proven his competence in pinpointing social issues--even more so his competence in doing so without crossing boundaries. What I mean by this is as stated above, Orwell speaks for himself--those surrounding him just happen to contribute to whatever he is speaking. He does not offend society, only defends his argument concerning society. With that being said, today's writers can take this objective style, with all its subtle subjectivity, and emulate it within current societal topics needing of criticism. Roberts asserts that Orwell exemplifies the philosophical analysis popular culture today often lacks. He decomposes his argument into four central themes of Orwell's stylistic writing:

1. The contested pleasures of popular culture
Here Roberts notes the true pleasure all statuses of people find in generating novel meanings to areas of popular culture. Thus, he isolates Orwell's ability to stimulate interest in such topics in order to stimulate action. Orwell does so, because his style embodies discourse that serves as "resources for ordinary people to create their own oppositional codes that reject dominant narratives" (220). That is, he 'negotiates' with his audience, them making meaning of not only his distinct statements, but of their reactions to these statements.

2. Language, culture, and power
Roberts then explicates how Orwell creates oppositional codes, in which Orwell's everyday language targets all cultures and statuses of power. Considering "language is inherently dialogical, heteroglossic, and multiaccentual," this means that "everyday language use is contradictory in scope to the extent that it refracts different points of views, different social classes, different ideologies, different identities, and so on" (220).

3. Social class and culture identity
Roberts furthers this discussion on Orwell's language with Orwell's views: Orwell writes for the sake of social classes seeing their phenomenological standpoint with all classes. "For Orwell social class is a complex mixture of economic, social, and cultural capital, which combine in distinctive ways in specific contexts, or fields. They gain their unique identity only in relationship to one another and it makes no sense to analyze them separately" (224). Roberts uses a piece from Orwell's book, The Road to Wagon Pier, as illustration, for Orwell directly explains how classes mistakenly identify themselves.

4. Beyond culture relativism and towards nomadism
While Orwell believes classes are related, he never claims they are not different, only claims their differences should work as one. Roberts identifies this as nomadism, identifying Orwell as a "nomadic writer" who situates himself in "space that is different to his own middle class life" (229).