From Big Brother to Big Brother: Nihilism and Society in the Age of Screen


Liddelow , Eden


PhD (Melbourne), DipEd (LaTrobe) DALF(Paris), Author of AFTER ELECTRA: Rage, Grief and Hope in Twentieth-Century Fiction

“Brilliant,at times dazzling...Liddelow impresses with her intellectual audacity, sheer erudition and courage in tackling this difficult and uncomfortable terrain”

Dr Jennifer Rutherford,Australian Book Review

“Engaging and innovative analysis” Dr Tessa Hockly, Australian Literary Studies
“Using Nietzsche and Orwell as key textural elements Dr Liddelow discusses the modern novel, the role of art, Media, literature in America, England, France and Australia as well as the literary praxis of decline and nihilistic despair. Her work has amazing sweep and intellectual energy.”

Ray Hanna, North American Review Syndicate

The Nietzschean revolution governed the twentieth century, preaching the revaluation of all values, the privileging of interpretations over facts, the dominance of art. The ‘crisis of consciousness’ is our normality. Nihilism is both good and bad, in Nietzsche’s view and my own. It opposes all the conventional thinking and moralistic repressions of periods before the telescreen age. But not so many people can believe in nothing, and Nietzsche wasn’t one of them. What have we been believing in when we thought we weren’t believing in anything? The book asserts that while Nietzsche’s insights were necessary, in 2012 we have to revalue his value. Novels do this probably more effectively than the screen to which, since Orwell’s 1984 – from the time of the fictive Big Brother to the almost as fictive TV program – we have become vulnerable. They show what goes on behind the scenes as the individual evaluates contemporary life: his/her crisis – or repudiation- of value, meaning and desirability.

The book observes the social and artistic waves still emanating in our century from the philosophical Big Bang of Descartes’ institution of doubt at the heart of mankind’s existence - with special attention to Nietzsche, the Russians, Plato, existentialism, Dada, Mickey Mouse, popular fundamentalisms, End-Timers, surveillance (Orwell’s and ours) and particularly neo-liberalism. The following chapters each investigate a civilisation – Britain, the USA, France and Australia – examining six novels closely, each within their social context, from 1948 (Orwell’s 1984) to century’s end. How do individuals handle the proliferating doubt which has split consciousness, in the screen age, into an unstable oscillation between theory and impulse? We see the impulse on the telescreen: another theory may lie behind it. We don’t really think much. The idea of falsehood, like sacred, no longer features particularly in the telecreen age West, nor a concept of disvalue (Susan Sontag’s term, following Nietzsche). Art is both worshipped and banalized. The Ancient Chinese Warriors T shirt, the Botticelli ‘Primavera’ mouse mat, the Fra Angelico ‘Annunciation’ mug and address book - the category ‘postmodern’ permits all. But is this phenomenon simply nihilist? Art is brought closer to us, but power and its meaning are being called into question.

Nietzsche was right to unmask the pieties of the late 19th century as decadent conventions. But in the dawning knowledge that nihilism and fundamentalism (of religions or markets) are two sides of the same coin, and that like both Big Brothers we are engaged in the abolition of the natural as well as of the sacred, are we now best served by an ethic that denies any notion of the good outside the will to power? For, in Terry Eagleton’s words, ‘Confronted with an implacable political enemy, and a fundamentalist one at that, the West will no doubt be forced to reflect more and more on the foundations of its own civilisation.’

The research is lively, and keen to go past the straitjackets of belief – for that is what theories are – that the 20th century was so attached to. We have been treating values as options. But what values might be necessary to this new century? The study concludes with a portrait of the telescreen age’s real Superman.

Literary Studies, Cultural Studies/Theory, post-colonialism, popular culture, film history, TV as a phenomena, Philosophy, Anglo-American Literature, French Literature, Australian Literature, Society and Value in the 21st Century, Art
Release Date: 
March 17th,2013
Cloth: 978-1-936320-62-2
Trim Size: 

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