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Politics and the English Language

How can language be used to empower people? How can it take power away? Language can shape reality, change the world, for better or for worse. The goal of this course is to consider the nature of language and its power, and the grave dangers that emerge when language comes under state control. We will primarily examine George Orwell’s classic novel 1984 to understand questions such as: can language be controlled, and what happens when we try?



Sample readings:

  • George Orwell, 1984, “Appendix on Newspeak” and selections
  •  George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language”
  • Mark Dunn, Ella Minnow Pea
  • Declaration of Independence
  • Henry VIII, Treasons Act of 1534
  • J.L Austin, How to do Things with Words, selections
  • Dan Klein, “Rinkonomics: A Window on Spontaneous Order”
  • EconTalk, “John McWhorter on the Evolution of Language and Words on the Move” (podcast) and “Paper TOWELS or PAPER Towels” (educational supplement to podcast)
  • Steve Horwitz, “Spontaneous Order in Adam Smith”

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