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Title: Against the “Uprush of Modern Progress”: Exploring the Dilemma and Dynamics of Modernity in George Orwell’s Burmese Days
Authors: Angelia Poon
Issue Date: May-2014
Publisher: 英語學系
Abstract: Published in 1934, George Orwell’s first novel Burmese Days was the result of his five years in Burma doing “the dirty work of empire” and oiling the “actual machinery of despotism” (Wigan Pier 147). This article considers the specific relationship in the novel between anti-imperialist politics and what it means to be modern in the early part of the twentieth century. How, for example, does modernity as a structure of feeling about breaking away from the past and tradition play out within the framework of a political dispensation of the imperial coupled with colonial governmentality? And what particular conception of culture and humanity might such a modernity be premised on? In Burmese Days, I argue that Orwell expresses the dilemma and dynamics of modernity through his use of a self-conscious narrative voice, and the story of his main character Flory, specifically the latter’s failure as a colonial, masculine subject. Orwell attempts to propose an alternative to the hegemonic version of European modernity that is based on the presence of an Other and the equation between colonialism and modernization. He explores a humanism written on and expressed through the body as part of the struggle with prejudice and bias that underlies Flory’s yearning for an alternative modernity. Such an alternative proves unsustainable however and the result is cynicism, despair, and irony. Despite this, the textual search for another modernity remains ultimately of critical epistemological interest for its disclosure of the contested and far from monolithic nature of European modernity.
Other Identifiers: 199D6B0E-4E56-9B01-6C65-DD6707804191
Appears in Collections:Concentric: Studies in English Literature and Linguistics

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