Orwell, the University

Orwell, the University – and the University of Life A major conference, jointly organised by the Orwell Society and the Department of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths, University of London

Professor Richard Lance Keeble, chair of the Orwell Society, is to give the keynote: ‘”There is always room for one more custard pie”: Orwell’s humour’ while Professor Tim Crook, of Goldsmiths, is to talk on ‘George Orwell and the radio imagination’.

Other speakers will include Professor Jean Seaton, of Westminster University, and Professor John Newsinger, Professor of Modern History at Bath Spa University.

Professor Crook commented: ‘We want to celebrate the teaching and research of George Orwell’s writings and culture in the academy.’

Attendance for the event, which will take place at The Cinema, Richard Hoggart Building, Goldsmith, from 10 am to 4pm, is free. All are welcome.

Please contact Professor Crook at t.crook@gold.ac.uk to register your interest.

Orwell, The University and the University of Life
Conference- Goldsmiths, University of London in association
with the Orwell Society
The Cinema, Richard Hoggart Main Building, Lewisham Way,
London SE14 6NW
Thursday 7th January 2016
‘“There is Always Room for One More Custard Pie”: Orwell’s Humour.’ Professor Richard
As the author of the dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell tends to be associated with
gloom, failure and the horrors of living in a Big Brother society. Yet he had a remarkably bright
and witty side. This talk will examine Orwell’s humour in a range of texts: including Homage to
Catalonia (1938), his ‘As I Please’ columns in Tribune (1943-47), his essay on the sexy, seaside
postcards of Donald McGill (1941) – and on the common toad (1946). It will also stress the
rewards of teaching Orwell to students of journalism, cultural studies – and the humanities in

Richard Lance Keeble is chair of the Orwell Society and Professor of Journalism at the University
of Lincoln. Richard has edited and contributed to two significant volumes of essays on Orwell’s
life and works, ‘Orwell Today’ (Abramis 2012) and ‘George Orwell Now!’ (Peter Lang 2015).

‘Orwell’s Women.’ Professor Jean Seaton.
There is a disconnect between the women that were close to Orwell and part of his milieu and the
rather inadequate and stereotypical female characters in the novels. He knew a rather advanced
group of women who were professional, independent, and educated. Eileen, his first wife, was a
trained psychologist, and worked in the Ministry of Food. Her sister in law was a doctor. Lydia
Jackson, a friend of Eileen and Orwell’s, was a pioneering child psychologist and writer of both
memoires and novels. These women were exceptional even in the 1930s and 40s. Yet they were
also marginal (or marginalised). Eileen in particular existed until recently as others saw her – and
with just a few letters in her own words a different, wittier, more forceful character emerges. What
does their experience reveal about women and class in fiction then?

Orwell himself, labouring to become a better writer, often wrote uncomfortably about women.
Why? Or was he just a chap of his time?

Jean Seaton is Professor of Media History at the University of Westminster and the Official
Historian of the BBC. She is the Director of the Orwell Prize and on the editorial board of Political
Quarterly. She is well known for her co-authorship with Professor James Curran of Power
‘Without Responsibility, the Press and Broadcasting in Britain’, ‘Carnage and the Media: the
Making and Breaking of News about Violence’, and more recently ‘Pinkoes and Traitors: the BBC
and the Nation 1970-1987.’
The Orwell Prize http://theorwellprize.co.uk/
Jean took over the Orwell Prize from Sir Bernard Crick. It had been started with the royalties from
his biography on Orwell and donations from Orwell’s friends and The Political Quarterly which has
been a dedicated supporter. Under Jean the Prize has turned into a project, running events all
over the country, launching a blogging prize, a new social reporting prize and a Youth Prize,
receiving grants and support from the Media Standards Trust, A.M Heath, the Joseph Rowntree
Trust, Richard Blair, and other foundations. Its new Chair is Ken MacDonald QC and Rowan
Williams gave the very well received Orwell lecture this year.

‘Orwell and America.’ Professor John Newsinger.
Did Orwell ignore the United States? Was he so focused on England, Europe, Burma and the
Soviet Union that he turned his back altogether on the country that in his lifetime was to become
the most important in the world? The answer is no.

Orwell wrote his most important wartime journalism for the US magazine Partisan Review. He
wrote about American literature, most notably about Jack London. He was very concerned about
the US influence on Britain, both political and cultural. Towards the end of his life, he made clear
that he regarded the Labour government’s subservience to the United States as an obstacle to
progress towards socialism and at the same time proclaimed that in the event of a war between
the Soviet Union and the United States, he would support the United States. How did he come to
these conclusions?

John Newsinger is Professor of Modern History in the School of Humanities and Cultural
Industries at Bath Spa University and author of ‘Orwell’s Politics’ (Palgrave, 1999). He has a
chapter on George Orwell and the Holocaust in the ‘Cambridge Companion to George Orwell’
(2007). He is a regular reviewer for New Left Review and the author of many books and articles
on modern history.

‘Moving in Orwell’s Shadow.’ Professor Aeron Davis.
This paper is part personal diary account and part musing on Orwell’s relevance today. For years,
I moved in Orwell’s shadow: as a student of European interwar history and utopian literature,
travelling through war-torn Central America, writing when down and out in Yorkshire, and when
gainfully employed in the former Ministry of Truth. All these things eventually led me towards a
career researching politics, media and communication, documenting contemporary forms of
power and propaganda, and asking questions of modern-day O’Briens. Do I think Orwell’s social
and political observations still hold up today? Has his shadow stretched all the way to the 21st
Century? All will be revealed.

Aeron Davis is Professor of Political Communication in the Department of Media and
Communications at Goldsmiths. He is the author of four books and some 50 journal articles, book
chapters and other publications.

‘Orwell and the Radio Imagination.’ Professor Tim Crook.
Tim Crook has researched the creative relationship between George Orwell, the radio world and
his iconic writing in novels and essays. He argues that the two years Orwell worked for the BBC
during the Second World War were the key to the success of his novels Animal Farm and
Nineteen Eighty Four and his development as an innovative writer. Orwell was actually trained in
radio feature making by the leading pioneering and political radio documentary makers of the
1930s and 40s. Tim demonstrates that his influential essay ‘Politics of the English Language’ was
informed by the professional experience of writing broadcast news, but also provided a legacy to
the BBC in journalistic impartiality and caution on the propagandist use of language in news and
current affairs.

Tim Crook is a Professor and Head of Radio and Media Law and Ethics in the Department of
Media and Communications at Goldsmiths and Visiting Professor of Broadcast Journalism at
Birmingham City University. He has been a journalist and writer since the age of 16 and is also
chair of the Professional Practices Board of the Chartered Institute of Journalists- the world’s first
professional association of journalists. Tim has authored chapters on ‘George Orwell: Cold War
Radio warrior?’ ‘George Orwell and the Radio Imagination’ and is currently researching and
writing a monograph for Ashgate titled: ‘Orwell On The Radio 4.’

Conference Schedule
Goldsmiths College calendar: http://www.gold.ac.uk/calendar/?id=9237
10 to 10.15 Introduction by the Warden Pat Loughrey and Professor Tim Crook
Keynote 10.15 to 10.45 Richard Keeble. Orwell’s Humour.
Questions 10.45 to 11.00
Tea/Coffee half an hour 11.00 to 11.30
11.30 to 12.00 Professor Tim Crook. Orwell and the Radio Imagination
Questions 12.00 to 12.15
12.15 to 12.45 Professor John Newsinger. Orwell and America.
Questions 12.45 to 1 pm
Lunch 1 to 2 pm.
2 pm to 2.30 Professor Aeron Davis. Moving in Orwell’s Shadow.
Questions 2.30 to 2.45
2.45 to 3.15 Professor Jean Seaton. Orwell’s Women.
Questions 3.15 to 3.30 pm
3.30 to 4 pm Announcement about new George Orwell Studies Journal, discussion and planning
for next conference.
Images of George Orwell courtesy and the copyright of the Orwell Estate and Archive, University College

Cost free, all welcome, please email t.crook@gold.ac.uk

LocationThe Cinema, Richard Hoggart Building

Dates & times

Date Time
7 Jan 2016 10:00am – 4:00pm

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