Opening question: Are students in seminar acquainted with this text? If so, under what conditions did you read it? What outstanding memories or issues? Discussion context?
Welcome to interrupt presentation with information, observations, or questions.
Reasons to know text & author (cultural literacy):
Title from speech by Miranda in Shakespeare's The Tempest (1610-11), act 5, scene 1: "O brave new world / That has such creatures in't."
Brave New World ranks #5 on Modern Library's list of 100 greatest English-language novels of the 20th Century (1998). (Modern Library's status: publisher of "modern classics," esp. in paperback with great mid-twentieth-century influence; absorbed into Vintage imprint in 1960 but re-established in 1990s.)
With George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 (1953), and William Golding's Lord of the Flies (1954), Brave New World was a fixture in the American canon of dystopian-collective fiction of the later Twentieth Century (partly replaced recently by Hunger Games). Often taught in high schools, now maybe more frequently in Advanced Placement.
[Subtext for literary studies and curriculum: Cold War / Baby Boomer favorites (incl. the controversial Huckleberry Finn and Heart of Darkness) have continued to dominate secondary and introductory-college Literature courses until recently.]
Huxley was grandson of Thomas H. Huxley (1825-95), celebrated naturalist, partisan and friend of Charles Darwin. (Huxley as a defender of scientific evolution was nicknamed "Darwin's Bulldog" and famously coined the term "agnostic" in 1869 to limit discussions of science and religion to what is empirically knowable.)
Huxley's mother, Julia Arnold Huxley, was sister to Mary Augusta Ward (1851-1920), novelist known professionally as Mrs. Humphrey Ward. Mrs. Ward's novels, some of which were best-sellers and the subject of extended critical discussion, often represented Victorian religious issues. Mrs. Ward also participated in settlement movements; cf. Jane Adams (1860-1935) and Hull House.
Huxley's mother was also the niece of Victorian poet and literary-cultural critic Matthew Arnold (1822-88; Culture and Anarchy [1867-69] and the famous poem "Dover Beach" (1867), which the protagonist Montag recites in Ray Bradbury's 1953 dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451.
Dialogue / exchange between Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) & Brave New World (1931) and George Orwell (1903-1950) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)
Huxley taught Orwell in French at Eton College, England.
Orwell reviewed Brave New World in 1940, nearly a decade before publishing Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949).
Orwell sent Huxley a review copy of Nineteen Eighty-Four to Huxley, in response to which Huxley wrote
Both Huxley and Orwell were influenced by the Russian novel We (1921, 1924) by Evgeny Zamyatin.
Science fiction / Utopian elements in Brave New World
Historical change since 1931 renders anachronistic some of the text's scientific systems, but overall the models remain familiar enough--and described efficiently enough--that overall vision of the future seems plausible if not somewhat inevitable. (Potentially a pre-digital perspective.)
Application of early 20th-century industrial processes to human reproduction and divisions of labor.
Application of psychological conditioning to transformations of social behavior + divisions of labor.
Social trends: increasing population and rising standards of living result in overwhelming of high culture by mass popular culture enhanced by electronic media.
Brave New World as fiction w/ plot / narrative conflicts and summary
Setting: London in the Year of Our Ford A.F. 632 (AD 2540 acc. to Gregorian calendar) ("Ford" refers to Henry Ford, whose maximization of assembly-line industry serves as a semi-divine revelation of social efficiency and productivity.)
Settings also feature visits to a Pueblo Indian reservation in Southwestern USA (now part of World State).
As with much utopian fiction, Brave New World's characterization is superficial to formulaic. The central couple--Henry Foster and Polly Trotsky--are, respectively, a frustrated intellectual and an intellectually limited but sexually attractive hatchery line worker who, as their relationship develops, become disenchanted with the polyamorous sexuality of the society
The major plot conflict, however, is between the values of "the Savage" or "John Savage," an Anglo young man born through an off-the-grid liaison on the Indian reservation and self-educated by reading Shakespeare and other high classics, and representatives of the new society, artificially reproduced, educated by conditioning, and entertained by low mass culture entertainments known as "feelies" or distracted by "soma," a euphoria-inducing drug with limited after-effects compared to alcohol.
As with many world-scale science fictions, the plot also depends on a family drama to connect the major characters. The Savage turns out to be the grown, unacknowledged son of the Director of Hatcheries, conceived twenty years earlier on a previous vacation trip to the Pueblo Reservation.
Reasons to admire text (formal and historical):
Suspension of genre / reception between satirical dystopia and plausible inevitability.
Huxley wrote Brave New World in response to the utopian-dystopian literary tradition, then most prominently championed by H.G. Wells, with Jules Verne the "father of science fiction." Wells wrote both utopian novels (A Modern Utopia, 1905 and Men Like Gods, 1923) and a dystopian novel (When the Sleeper Wakes,1899, rewritten as The Sleeper Awakes, 1910). In a letter to Mrs. Arthur Goldsmith, Huxley wrote, "Wells's Men Like Gods annoyed me to the point of planning a parody, but when I started writing I found the idea of a negative Utopia so interesting that I forgot about Wells and launched into Brave New World."
Limits to text's new-millennium appreciation or application
London-centered, though visits to Southwestern USA
Hypnopedia's dependence on hypnotism as powerful psychological transformative agent seems dated, but if one dismisses the trance-associations of hypnotism, techniques of suggestion and socio-psychological manipulation have flourished in mass communications and marketing.
Notes from Aldous Huxley, Brave New World and Brave New World Revisited. NY: HarperPerennial / Modern Classics,
Foreword (2004) by Christopher Hitchens
vii Huxley dies same day as President John Kennedy and C.S. Lewis (22 Nov. 1963)
sex divorced from procreation
reproduction cloning ehtics
fetal stem-cells in medicine
public life = spectacle and entertainment
viii photo on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) [see below]
The Doors named for The Doors of Perception < William Blake
"Brave new world" < Miranda in Tempest; cf. "Catch-22," "Nineteen Eighty-Four": virtual hieiroglyphics which almost automatically summon a universe of images and associations"
Huxley taught George Orwell [French] at Eton + classmate?
ix George Orwell review Brave New World 1940
[WW2 and Cold War made 1984's vision more pressing]
x combination of annihilating war and subsequent obliteration of cultural and historical memory
x-xi "[Orwell] was writing about the forbidding, part-alien experience of Nazism and Stalinism, whereas Huxley was locating disgust and menace in the very things--the new toys of materialism, from cars to contraceptives--that were becoming everyday pursuits."
xi Huxley . . . often tended to condescend to the readers, as much of the dialogue in Brave New World also tends to do. It is didactic and pedagogic and faintly superior . . . .
grandfather T. H. Huxley, celebrated naturalist, partisan and friend of Charles Darwin . . . coined term "agnostic"
maternal uncle: Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy
xii eugenics popular in Victorian . . . Social Darwinism
xiii Mustapha Mond cf. Mustapha Kemal (Ataturk)
xix fictional characters as puppets to illustrate his points
lack of characterization
deficiencies: Nature, Religion, Literature > chemical, mechanical, sexual comforts
xv a reactionary modernist cf. Evelyn Waugh
xvi-xvii letter to George Orwell after Nineteen Eighty-Four [see below]
xvii Nineteen Eighty-Four = scarcity; Brave New World: abundance
xix Brave New World Revisited LSD . . . another aspect of soma
friend of Timothy Leary
xx A map of the world that does not show Utopia, said Oscar Wilde, is not worth glancing at.
[author's] Preface [for second edition of Brave New World, 1947] (online copy at http://www.wealthandwant.com/auth/Huxley.html)
8 Brave New World contains no reference to nuclear fission. . . . The oversight may not be excusable; but at least it can be easily explained. The theme of Brave New World is not the advancement of science as such; it is the advancement of science as it affects human individuals.
It is only by means of the sciences of life that the quality of life can be radically changed.
8-9 This really revolutionary revolution is to be achieved, not in the external world, but in the souls and flesh of human beings. Living as he did in a revolutionary period, the Marquis de Sade very naturally made use of this theory of revolutions in order to rationalize his peculiar brand of insanity. Robespierre had achieved the most superficial kind of revolution, the political. Going a little deeper, Babeuf had attempted the economic revolution. Sade regarded himself as the apostle of the truly revolutionary revolution, beyond mere politics and economics -- the revolution in individual men, women and children, whose bodies were henceforward to become the common sexual property of all and whose minds were to be purged of all the natural decencies, all the laboriously acquired inhibitions of traditional civilization.
11 . . . in an age of advanced technology, inefficiency is the sin against the Holy Ghost. A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude. To make them love it is the task assigned . . . .
12 The love of servitude cannot be established except as the result of a deep, personal revolution in human minds and bodies. To bring about that revolution we require, among others, the following discoveries and inventions.
13 . . . unless we choose to decentralize and to use applied science, not as the end to which human beings are to be made the means, but as the means to producing a race of free individuals . . . .
15 setting: CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE
World state motto: COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY
16 Alpha students [intellectual conditioned; ironically, real name for advanced students in local CCISD schools]
incubators . . . week's supply of ova [utopia's / dystopia's inclination to plan reproduction to maximize human quality and reduce sexual conflicts]
18 modern fertilizing process
Gammas, Delts, and Epsilons > Bokanosky's Process
one egg, embryo > 96
series of arrests of development
18 a prodigious improvement . . . on nature
19 principle of mass production at last applied to biology
20 Bokonaovsky Group
21 Social Predestination Room
Eighty-eight cubic meters of card index [once again, sf fails to anticipate electronic information technology]
Source: Letters of Aldoux Huxley
Wilson, Edward O. On Human Nature. Harvard UP, 1978, 2004.
Chapter 9. Hope
195 . . . the seemingly fatal deterioration of the myths of traditional religion and its secular equivalents . . . a loss of moral consensus, a greater sense of helplessness about the human condition, and a shrinking of concern back toward the self and the immediate future.
198 Truly exceptional individuals, weak or strong, are, by definition, to be found at the extremes of statistical curves, and the hereditary substrate of their traits come together in rare combinations that arise from random processes in the formation of new sex cells and the fusion of sex cells to create new organisms. Since each individual produced by the sexual process contains a unique set of genes, very exceptional combinations of genes are unlikely to appear twice even within the same family. So if genius is to any extent hereditary, it winks on and off through the gene pool in a way that would be difficult to measure or predict. Like Sisyphus rolling his boulder up and over to the top of the hill only to have it tumble down again, the human gene pool creates hereditary genius in many ways in many places only to have it come apart the next generation. The genes of the Sisyphean combinations are probably spread throughout populations. For this reason alone, we are justified in considering the preservation of the entire gene pool as a continent primary value until such time as an almost unimaginably greater knowledge of human heredity provides us with the option of a democratically contrived eugenics.
208 Then mankind will face the third and perhaps final spiritual dilemma. Human genetics is now growing quickly along with all other branches of science. In time, much knowledge concerning the genetic foundation of social behavior will accumulate, and techniques may become available for altering gene complexes by molecular engineering and rapid selection through cloning. At the very least, slow evolutionary change will be feasible through conventional eugenics. The human species can change its own nature. What will it choose? Will it remain the same, teetering on a jerrybuilt foundation of partly obsolete Ice-Age adaptations? Or will it press on toward still higher intelligence and creativity, accompanied by a greater—or lesser—capacity for emotional response? New patterns of sociality could be installed in bits and pieces. It might be possible to imitate genetically the more nearly perfect nuclear family of the white handed gibbon or the harmonious sisterhoods of the honeybees. But we are talking here about the very essence of humanity. Perhaps there is something already present in our nature that will prevent us from every making such changes. In any case, and fortunately, this third dilemma belongs to later generations.
[from Chapter 3—dialog b/w two women workers turns into something like poetic collage]
"Perfect!" cried Fanny
enthusiastically. She could never resist Lenina's charm for long. "And what a
perfectly sweet Malthusian belt!"