Floating Life 4/06 ~ 11/07

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Brave New World

I mentioned yesterday that I was rereading Aldous Huxley’s 1932 dystopia, using the Vintage Classics edition of 2004: David Bradshaw’s 1994 preface to that edition really is very good on the novel’s context and on its ambivalence: one is never sure whether Huxley is warning us about or celebrating his “Brave New World.” I really think the novel is about the search Huxley was on as much as anything else; certainly Huxley’s later career would seem to bear that out.

Also, it has to be said that Brave New World really is not a very good novel, with its crashing coincidences and its deeply unbelievable Savage and its great dollops of Cardinal Newman and others. I rather like Bradshaw’s idea that Linda is based on D H Lawrence’s wife Frieda von Richtofen.

Those studying the novel should head for somaweb.org, which is just about as comprehensive a set of ideas and links as you could get. One of those links is to the rather amazing A Defence Of Paradise-Engineering, whose theme really seems to be that we all need soma but just need to get the formula right. Another links to an essay by Ming Li, “The Cost of Stability in Brave New World“. I like this bit:

Homer Simpson once said, “God has no place within these walls, just as facts have no place within organized religion”.

See also Answers.com, which is also excellent on the novel.

NSW HSC students read Brave New World in conjunction with Blade Runner (2000 Director’s Cut), that quite amazing movie dystopia. My link refers you again to Answers.com, which gives you just about all you need. HSC students are asked to consider both texts as part of a unit called In the Wild, the details of which you may read there. It is in fact a rather interesting unit. An alternative study of the same topic may be undertaken using David Malouf’s An Imaginary Life (a much better novel than Brave New World) and the poetry of Wordsworth. I dealt with that one on my English and ESL Blog last year.

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Written by Neil

May 2, 2006 at 9:54 am

Posted in Education, Reading

4 Responses

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  1. Long time reader, haven’t commented before, but, for once, I have an informed opinion.

    I studied the English Advanced component In The Wild, reading/ viewing the two texts that you spoke about and, agreeably, found the topic to be quite interesting. However, I do have to disagree with you on your remarks of the quality of B.N.W.. I believed it to be quite a good text, complex, but also simple. For the average student in English Advanced, it had enough that they could wrap their heads around. For the more advanced students, there were enough layers of interesting facts and nuance that you could adequately achieve the outcomes aimed for the component, more-so than most other texts that are applicable.

    I am familiar with Wordsworth’s poetry, but it is hardly a replacement for a text like B.N.W., because it is too straight forward for the top Advanced students. The meaning and subtleties of poetry are far easier to decipher and manipulate for your arguments in the final tests than a text, and it is this difference that separates the students in marks, UAI, and, further, University futures. Students shouldn’t be grouped together because of a unchallenging text, instead, grades should reflect the effort they are putting into their work. Because a student can coast their way through to the same mark as me, should the texts remain unchallenging for those leading the class?


    May 2, 2006 at 11:37 pm

  2. That’s a very thoughtful comment. Thanks. Also, while I still think BNW is far from the “world’s greatest novel”, it is an interesting parable, and does raise issues that even the brightest students can grapple with — perhaps for the rest of their lives! I know I am still grappling with them…

    Hmm, but I disagree with you about Wordsworth; The Prelude is far from simple; there is a lot to challenge in Wordsworth as well, especially when you start looking at his work critically.


    May 3, 2006 at 9:02 am

  3. I am sitting in the library just minutes before English Advanced paper one and am about to be pressured to write all i know on brave new world and blade runner. wish me luck!!


    October 19, 2007 at 8:57 am

  4. But they are in Paper Two! 😉


    October 19, 2007 at 12:39 pm

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