Syllabuzz: ENG 347 – George Orwell

A spotlight on some of the interesting courses faculty are teaching at Elon.


By Gabriela Szewcow ’13

To teach an author course in Elon’s Department of English, a professor needs to be an expert on the subject. But how does one become such an expert?

“You have to live a while and get old,” Rosemary Haskell says with a smile.

For the third time during her tenure at Elon, the professor of English is teaching a class about George Orwell. Her interest in the British writer dates to her high school days in England, when she had an instructor who was interested in Orwell. Haskell began reading his essays, articles, letters and diaries – the latter, in particular, made her want to read more.

“Here was an author who not only hated inequality and injustice in a theoretical or intellectual way, but also a man who would do almost anything to find out more about what that unfairness meant for the unlucky – and usually ignored – half of English society,” Haskell says.

Because of the breadth of Orwell’s writing, she was very selective in choosing material to teach.

“Orwell wrote so much journalism, so many essays, and in fact he wrote nine novel-length books,” Haskell says. “I pick topics he was interested in and then cluster some texts around them.”

She encourages her students to use different critical approaches and literary theories to interpret Orwell’s texts. Papers, literary analyses and oral presentations of Orwell’s contemporaries are assigned to demonstrate the students’ mastery of the material.

The Orwell course is high on Haskell’s list of favorite courses to teach, she says, adding that she changes the structure each time based on what’s happening in the world at the time.

“There are some themes in the course [this year] that are quite fashionable at the moment, like imperialism and social inequality,” she says. “I look forward to finding a way to show [students] the different ways in which Orwell’s work continues to be relevant.”

About the Professor
A member of Elon’s faculty for 27 years, Haskell teaches a number of courses in the English department as well as The Global Experience course for first-year students. Her research interests focus on 18th- and 19th-century British literature and on works by Jane Austen and George Orwell.

Recommended Readings
Homage to Catalonia
Animal Farm

(All works by George Orwell)

Syllabuzz is a recurrent feature in The Magazine of Elon. To read the latest edition, click here.