Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)


public domain photo of Aldous Huxley

A selective list of online literary criticism and analysis for the twentieth-century English novelist and essayist Aldous Huxley, favoring signed articles by recognized scholars and articles published in peer-reviewed sources


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brief biography

Aldous Huxley was born in Godalming, Surrey, England into an intellectually prominent family that was distinguished in both the sciences and education. His father was a master at Charterhouse School in Godalming, and his half-brother was Andrew Fielding Huxley, a Nobel Prize winning physiologist. He was the grandson of Thomas Henry Huxley, the nineteenth century biologist known as "Darwin's bulldog" for being the principal proponent in England of Darwin's theory of evolution. He was also the great-nephew of Matthew Arnold, the Victorian poet and essayist, and his great grandfather was Dr. Thomas Arnold, the famous educator at Rugby School.

Huxley was educated at Eton and at Oxford University. After leaving college he had to become self-supporting. He had suffered from severe visual impairment since he was 17, as the result of an eye disease, and had to abandon his first choice of profession, to be a doctor. He briefly attempted to become a school teacher, but he was determined to make his living as a writer. Eventually he established himself as a major author with four novels that satirize the social decadence of his day: Crome Yellow (1921), Antic Hay (1923), Those Barren Leaves (1925), and Point Counter Point (1928). His best known novel is Brave New World (1932), the portrait of a nightmarish twenty-fifth century Utopia. Between 1925-1930 Huxley was a good friend and frequent companion of D.H. Lawrence, and some critics see signs of the influence of Lawrence on his later work.

In 1937 he moved to Southern California, where he became a screenwriter and turned his attention to mysticism, Eastern thought, and mind-altering drugs. He wrote about his experiences with the hallucinogenic drug mescaline in 1954 in The Doors of Perception. The title was taken from lines in William Blake's poem The Marriage of Heaven and Hell:

If the doors of perception were cleansed
     every thing would appear to man as it is: Infinite.
For man has closed himself up, till he sees
     all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.

It's said that Jim Morrison named his band "The Doors" in reference to these same lines. Aldous Huxley was married twice, and had one child, a son. He died in Los Angeles in 1963. In 1971 his ashes were returned to England and interred in his family's grave.


introduction

Mike Wallace interviews Aldous Huxley. In 1958, Huxley warns of the misuses of technology. Interviewed by a rather heavy-handed Mike Wallace, who begins, "This is Aldous Huxley, a man haunted by a vision of hell on earth." Youtube video, 29 minutes.

"Aldous Leonard Huxley 1894-1963." Biographical facts about Aldous Huxley and his family, from the Godalming Museum.

"The Talented Mr. Huxley." An extended feature article on Huxley's life, books, and travels, from Humanities Magazine Nov./Dec. 2015.

"Out of Sight: The curious career of Aldous Huxley." Writer Clive James opines, "while he was alive, Aldous Huxley was one of the most famous people in the world." So let's deflate that! The New Yorker 17 March 2003.

"Aldous Huxley." An admiring interview with Aldous Huxley, in 1960, in which he discusses his writing habits and his current book project, Island. Huxley describes this as "a kind of reverse Brave New World, about a society in which real efforts are made to realize human potentialities. I want to show how humanity can make the best of both Eastern and Western worlds." Paris Review 23 (Spring 1960).

Derbyshire, John. "What Happened to Aldous Huxley?" New Criterion 21, 6 (Feb. 2003).

Huxley's 1922 story collection, Mortal Coils. Includes his two best known short stories, "The Gioconda Smile," a social satire and murder mystery, and "Nuns at Luncheon," a story about a nun falling in love, which at the same time mocks the writing process.

Nordgren, Joe. "Aldous Huxley." A substantial introduction to Aldous Huxley, from the Literary Encyclopedia, 19 July 2005 [subscription service].


literary criticism

Beauchamp, Gorman. "Island: Aldous Huxley's Psychedelic Utopia." Utopian Studies 1, 1 (1990) pp 59-72 [free at jstor, click "Preview" or "Read Online"].

Bentley, Joseph. "Huxley's Ambivalent Responses to the Ideas of D. H. Lawrence." Twentieth Century Literature 13, 3 (Oct. 1967) pp 139-53 [free at jstor].

Buchanan, Brad. "Oedipus in Dystopia: Freud and Lawrence in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World." Journal of Modern Literature 25, 3/4 (Summer 2002) pp 75-89 [free at jstor].

Enroth, Clyde. "Mysticism in Two of Aldous Huxley's Early Novels." Twentieth Century Literature 6, 3 (Oct. 1960) pp 123-32 [free at jstor].

Johnson, Keith Leslie. "Darwin's Bulldog and Huxley's Ape." Part of a special issue assessing the impact of Darwin's theory of evolution, or a misunderstanding of Darwin's ideas, on literary works in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Twentieth Century Literature 55, 4, Darwin and Literary Studies (Winter 2009), pp. 572-596 [free at jstor].

Matter, William W. "The Utopian Tradition and Aldous Huxley." Science Fiction Studies 2, 2 (July 1975) pp 146-51 [free at jstor].

Meckier, Jerome. "Housebreaking Huxley: Saint Versus Satirist." Mosaic: An Interdisciplinary Critical Journal 5, 4 (Summer, 1972), pp. 165-177 [free at jstor].

Meckier, Jerome. "Shakespeare and Aldous Huxley." Shakespeare Quarterly 22, 2 (Spring 1971) pp 129-35 [free at jstor].

Patty, James S. "Baudelaire and Aldous Huxley." On Aldous Huxley's deep knowledge of French literature and the Baudelairian element in his novel Point Counter Point. South Atlantic Bulletin 33, 4 (Nov., 1968), pp. 5-8 [free at jstor].

Posner, Richard A. "Orwell versus Huxley: Economics, Technology, Privacy, and Satire." John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics Working Paper No. 89, 1999)[open acccess].

Saunders, Judith P.; and Victoria Ingalls. "Evolutionary Science and Literary Design: Teaching Huxley's Brave New World in Interdisciplinary Collaboration." Style 47, 2 (Summer 2013), pp. 239-260 [free at jstor].

Sexton, James. "Aldous Huxley's Bokanovsky" [character in Brave New World]. Science Fiction Studies 16, 1 (March 1989) pp 85-9 [free at jstor].

Schmerl, Rudolf B. "The Two Future Worlds of Aldous Huxley." On the techniques used in constructing an imaginary world, and how such fantasies function as satires of the real worlds they reflect, in Brave New World and Ape and Essence. PMLA 77, 3 (June 1962) pp 328-34 [free at jstor].

Vitoux, Pierre. "Aldous Huxley and D. H. Lawrence: An Attempt at Intellectual Sympathy." On the second phase of Huxley's evolution as a novelist, when he was under the influence of D.H. Lawrence and Jungian psychology, and Huxley's use of psychological types in Point Counter Point. The Modern Language Review 69, 3 (July, 1974), pp. 501-522 [free at jstor].

Watt, Donald J. "The Criminal-Victim Pattern in Huxley's Point Counter Point." Studies in the Novel 2, 1 (Spring 1970) pp 42-51 [free at jstor].


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