This chapter presents a new reading of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four
(1949) and unearths its latent gothicism by examining it within the context
of the mid-century philosophies of the mind, scientific experiments in
neurology, and the technological applications of cathode-ray imaging.
The chapter begins with a discussion of how new types of telepresence
began to disrupt spatial and temporal order in the mid-century, producing an
uncanny effect that supercharged both material objects and abstract images
with gothic possibility. Via an analysis of Powell and Pressburger’s A
Matter of Life and Death (1946) as a meditation on the links between radio,
spectrality and neurology, the chapter proffers a detailed examination of
Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four as a mid-century gothic text. It shows how the
panoptical medium of the novel’s telescreens challenges the recursive
historicism of old objects. The mind control of the Thought Police is
considered in the light of mid-century theories of mind, including the
philosopher Gilbert Ryle’s empiricist description of consciousness in The
Concept of Mind (1949), and the work by the neurologist William Grey Walter,
and the thought experiments of Jacques Lacan, and Alan Turing’s computing
breakthroughs. Finally, the chapter returns to the cathode-ray screen as
a domestic object, tracing the way television invaded and disrupted private
space, and critiqued its own uncanny technological agency.
This chapter pinpoints 27 December 1601 as the date of the first performance
of Twelfth Night – and demonstrates that Shakespeare wrote his play for two
audiences, one at Elizabeth’s Court, the other at the Inns of Court.