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Aldous Huxley's Brave New World has been a canonical novel in advanced Foreign Language Teaching for a long time. Now some Bundesländer have decided to make this an obligatory text for teaching during the last three years. This is probably the reason why in 2007 two new editions appeared on the didactic market which will be analysed below.

Brave New World : a Critical Analysis of Recently Published Didactic Resources. Part I: Analysis of Two New Didactic Editions

Willi Real


It is a question of crucial significance which literary texts, particularly full-length dramas or novels, are to be read in advanced Foreign Language Teaching (FLT). However, the didactic discussion concerning criteria of selection or reasons for choosing some titles (which might become canonical texts) and neglecting others seems bound to come to an end. The reason is very simple: in an increasing number of Bundesländer, the Ministeries of Education decide which texts the students have to prepare for their final examination. Thus the Ministery in NRW chose Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale for the first Zentralabitur in 2006; now they have decided that a much older novel, namely Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (BNW), is to belong to the obligatory texts during the next few years - just like Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, obviously utopian novels are still very popular. Perhaps their next choice will be George Orwell's 1984: it is getting also more and more topical again in the light of the federal government's plans of controlling private computers.

Therefore BNW is "in" again or is still "in". Two new editions of this novel came out in 2007:

In addition, new didactic resources are being offered by the same publishing houses, which shows that they are very busy as a consequence of administrative decisions. The teaching guide published by Silke Horst (Klett) will replace Sonnhütter's older Stundenblätter,(1) the one published by Heinz Arnold (Cornelsen) will be new on the market and be based on his above quoted edition.

I will now concentrate on this new didactic material in a review article, which is to supplement my earlier analysis of the teaching model by Luz/Prischtt (2005).(2) At first Arnold's and Rau's didactic editions will be analysed. This part will be followed by a discussion of the teaching guides: cf. part II of this contribution entitled Analysis of two new teaching guides.

Front cover/back cover

The Klett cover shows the painting INCUBATOR by Lari Pittman (= an American painter, born in 1952). On the one hand, this is a very complex work of art demanding a lot of attention from the spectator. On the other hand, incubators are mentioned on the very first pages of the novel; thus the connection between the title page and the text becomes perceptible very soon. The Cornelsen cover shows several identical human beings so that the association with cloning is more or less automatic. In addition, there is a small picture showing the DNA code. It must be concluded that both front cover pages are quite attractive. In addition, both editions have a short description on the back cover to emphasize the book's topicality:

Constituent parts

Both the editions by Rau and by Arnold offer an unabridged text of BNW. Both of them have got numbered lines and critical apparatuses. The keywords chosen for explanation are printed in bold type, the arrangement as footnotes is user-friendly. In both editions the lexical items annotated and commented upon are accompanied by phonetic transcription in brackets. As a rule, there are explanations in English, but sometimes there are German translations. The lay-out is acceptable in both editions. As to the quality of the annotations and the commentary, however, certain differences cannot be overlooked.


For any editor, it is certainly extremely difficult to predict reliably which lexical items are (un)known to the students of a particular foreign language course: in the different textbooks used in FLT, the core vocabulary and the defining vocabulary are not identical in every respect. Thus reliable criteria for selecting the lexical items to be annotated can hardly be found. On the one hand, the editors should try to make sure that the students do not have to consult their dictionaries too often. On the other hand, they should not forget that it is possible for the students to practise inferential reading, that is, to arrive at conclusions concerning the meaning of new lexical items from the context. But the editors should also be aware of the fact that very often it is well-nigh impossible for the learners to guess the correct pronunciation of unfamiliar lexical items; therefore phonetic transcription may be more important than a definition or a translation of a word.

As to the production of a critical apparatus, Rau has a practical advantage since he published a volume of annotations on BNW in the 1990s.(3) This means that Rau has all the necessary material at his disposal already; in the new edition, there are certain changes since some comments and quite a number of additional texts have been left out. Silke Horst's new teacher's guide (Klett) is based on this edition. However, neither Rau's nor Arnold's annotations are satisfactory in every respect. Of course, it is impossible to compare them completely, yet I do hope to quote some examples which are representative of the authors' procedure.

At first glance, Rau's annotations are more comprehensive than Arnold's; it may be well worth while studying the annotations for the first pages because these are always extremely relevant for understanding the context and discovering the theme of a literary work. For the first three pages Rau has 75 annotations, from which 27 items are provided with phonetic transcription, and there are six examples in which an English explanation is supplemented by a German translation. Without any doubt, these annotations are extremely valuable for the students: it will hardly be necessary for them to look up unknown or difficult lexical items.

For the same amount of text, Arnold has 45 annotations. In eight cases only, he offers phonetic transcription, in seven cases he uses a German translation without any attempt at explaining the meaning in English. This shows that Arnold's annotations are less detailed: the students who use this edition have to be considerably more advanced. In other words, for many students there will be more gaps as to the explanation of difficult words so that they will have to consult their dictionaries: this means that extensive reading is interrupted rather frequently, which may imply some frustration on their part.

For example in Huxley's text, the word "barrel" is not used in its basic meaning but as a technical term denoting the part of a microscope that contains the lenses (cf. Rau, p. 7). This is not explained in Arnold (cf. p. 5). The meaning of "to fertilize" probably is not familiar to every student either. In Arnold's edition, again there is no explanation of it. In this case, Rau first explains the verb "to fertilize" ("to cause a male sperm to join a female egg"; cf. p. 7), but he also gives an explanation of "Fertilizer" = "worker whose job is to fertilize". The latter is dispensable because it can easily be seen from the context that the noun refers to persons.

Phonetic problems may be found in the following examples. The meaning of "absorbed" may be guessed, but its pronunciation is difficult because of the voiced "s" (cf. p. 7); here the pronunciation is only given by Rau (cf. p. 7). The same is true of "absorbing": this is explained by Rau (p. 118), yet there is no entry for it to be found in Arnold (p. 115). A similar problem is caused by the important content word "viviparous": it is explained and transcribed phonetically by Rau (p. 11), whereas it is translated but presented without phonetic transcription by Arnold (p. 8). Its meaning may certainly be derived from the context, yet its pronunciation cannot be guessed, which means that phonetic transcription is required. The same is true of the compound term "anthrax bombs": again phonetic transcription is missing in Arnold (cf. p. 43), however, it may be found in Rau (p. 47)). By a comparison of the critical apparatuses for chapters 16 and 17 the same thing becomes obvious again: for the following terms Arnold does not offer phonetic transcription: "deprecate" (p. 187), "impunity" (p. 188), "parenthetically", "plague" (p. 189), "ingenuity", "midget" (p. 190), "oratory" (p. 191). To my mind, all these examples point to serious gaps.

And there are some other shortcomings in this editor's publication as well, which all refer to the introductory page of the text (p. 5). The explanation of "lay figure" for example is given by using "manikin", i.e. an unknown item is explained by a term which is at least just as complicated: usually this implies unsurmountable obstacles for the readers. The explanation of "to soliloquize" is introduced by "here", which produces the impression that the meaning given refers to this particular context. However, the explanation "to speak to yourself" is the general meaning of the verb. Besides, the translation of "luscious" = "üppig" (p. 5) is not convincing. Rau's English explanation ("very pleasant, extremely attractive to the senses"; cf. p. 7) is more appropriate. It seems that Arnold has a strong tendency to use German translations as easiest and shortest explanations. In the following example there is likely to be a mistake: "skiddaw" is defined "as a mountain in north England" (p. 76); this sounds like a germanism; "in the North of England" would certainly be preferable; since the mountain is in the Lake District (cf. Rau, p. 81), it would be possible to say "in North-West England".

However, on the first pages, Rau's annotations are characterized by some imperfections as well. The London "hatchery" for example is said to be a place where eggs are artificially prepared to produce animals (Rau, p. 7). However, according to the context, the hatchery produces human beings. Therefore one might perhaps say: "to produce living beings" so that the students may derive the precise meaning from the context. In Arnold you just find the translation "Brutanstalt" (p. 5). The collocation "to make a point of doing" according to Rau means "to do s.th. deliberately" (p. 8). However it may be derived from the context that the director wants to make his tours look important, that is, to emphasize their meaning. A possible definition might run: "to be certain to do s.th. that you think is important"; thus, a good translation would be: "großen Wert darauf legen, etwas zu tun". So there is a difference in meaning; again this item is not explained by Arnold. The meaning of "illegible" is impossible rather than difficult to read (cf. Rau, p. 9). And again, there is no entry concerning this word in Arnold.

In Rau's linguistic commentary gaps are very rare. For the term "rhinoceros" (p. 80) for instance, he gives neither an explanation nor phonetic transcription. In this case you find both a translation and phonetic transcription in Arnold (p. 76); particularly the latter is indispensable. Similarly the adjective "multitudinous", which occurs in a quotation from Macbeth, is not commented upon by Rau (p. 103); in Arnold you find both its phonetic transcription and an explanation of the Shakespeare quotation in which it occurs (p. 100).

To conclude: Arnold's annotations may be helpful for advanced students; however, on the whole, there are too many gaps in them. There are too many items which are simply left out or which are not provided with phonetic transcription. As to Rau's edition it is disappointing that the above mentioned shortcomings occur in the earlier volume of Annotations as well: obviously they have just been reprinted without having been revised or improved. Yet there can be no doubt that Rau's annotations are more comprehensive, more careful, and therefore superior to Arnold's.

The commentary in the two editions

As to the commentary, the students should be provided with all the information necessary for textual comprehension. In BNW many aspects are mentioned by Huxley which cannot be expected to pass as common knowledge. However, if the students are familiar with the necessary aspects, they should find out the functions of allusions and quotations as well as their meaning in the context. Therefore it should not be listed in the commentaries what the students can find out by themselves.

The gamut of allusions and quotations in Huxley's dystopia is unusually great. There are religious allusions: the collocation "Bottomless Past" for example, stands for the bottomless pit, i.e. hell (cf. Arnold, p. 85 and Rau, p. 89). There are also biblical quotations, e.g. what man has joined, nature is powerless to put asunder. This alludes to St. Matthew 19:6 and has to be regarded as an inversion of the biblical statement, for which you find a satisfactory comment both in Arnold (p. 21) and Rau (p. 23). There are also allusions to proverbs, for instance to the hypnopaedic slogan: "A gramme in time saves nine", which refers to the use of soma and which is reminiscent of the proverb "A stitch in time saves nine" (cf. Arnold, p. 77 and Rau, p. 82). And there are allusions to geographical places, to historical events, to famous persons from different nations (such as Helmholtz Watson, Bernard Marx or Benito Hoover) and to literary works as different as nursery rhymes and Shakespearean plays.

Rau's and Arnold's procedure may be derived from an analysis of some practical examples. In chapter 3, the reader is confronted with the thesis that "history is bunk". It can be seen from the text that this statement is made by Mustapha Mond, the world controller for Western Europe, i.e. by the most powerful person of the whole novel. In Rau's commentary one can learn that the statement goes back to Henry Ford (p. 35). I would argue that this is a valuable hint for understanding since it underlines Ford's supreme significance for the utopian society. In Arnold's commentary, this is not mentioned (cf. p. 32), yet it can be seen from his Teacher's Manual.(4) That Ford has a god-like position may also be concluded from many other aspects. In the description of time the traditional chronology based upon Christianity (characterized by A.D. for short) is replaced by Fordian time (referred to by A.F.) which starts with the invention of Ford's T-model in 1908. If the action of BNW is supposed to take place in A.F. 632, this corresponds to the year 2540, rather than to 2560 as Arnold seems to think (cf. p. 6).(5)

The explanation of "Malthusian belt" is another interesting case. In Rau's comment (p. 49) the text runs: Malthusian [phonetic transcription in brackets]: referring to Thomas Robert Malthus, English economist (1766-1834). In his "Essay on the Principle of Population" he stated his belief that the population of the world would increase at a much faster rate than the increase in acricultural production. He saw war, disease, crime, and famine as necessary for keeping the balance. Malthus's ideas were used at the end of the 19th century to support the movement for family planning and abortion. This means that the entire text from his Annotations has been taken over (cf. p. 25).
In Arnold you simply find: Malthusian: allusion to T.R. Malthus (1766-1834); British economist who warned of overpopulation (p. 46). In my opinion, Arnold's much shorter version is just as informative as Rau's.

Sometimes the two editors' comments differ. Rau's comment on peyotl for example points out that it is a drug that produces visions and changes in the perception of time, sense, and mood; it comes from a cactus and is used in the rituals of some native religions (p. 106). According to Arnold: peyotl is a cactus from which mescal is produced (p. 103), and mescal is described as a Mexican alcoholic drink (cf. p. 102). In this case I would prefer Rau's definition since it fits better into the context.

There are also several allusions to nursery rhymes in BNW, which are certainly more familiar to native readers than to German students. In the solidarity service for example, the following lines occur:

Orgy-Porgy, Ford and fun,
Kiss the girls and make them One,
Boys at One with girls at peace,
Orgy-porgy gives realease.

Whereas Arnold just states that this is a rewording of the nursery rhyme entitled "Georgie-Porgy, pudding and pie" (p. 72), Rau speaks of a corruption of a well-known nursery rhyme and then quotes the full text (p. 78):

Georgie-Porgy, pudding and pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry.
When the boys came out to play,
Georgie Porgy ran away.

This is very convenient for the students since they can see in what way the nursery rhyme was transformed by the writer In a similar way Rau quotes two lines from the nursery rhyme "Bye, Baby Banting" so that the students may find out how it was changed in BNW (cf. p. 109). From Arnold's commentary one may also learn that Banting is an allusion to F.G. Banting (1891-1941) who discovered insulin (cf. p. 106). And in chapter two there are two examples of baby talk which also occur in nursery rhymes and which are used in the conditioning of the utopian world state's children (cf. Rau, p. 23). It seems as if these were overlooked by Arnold (cf. p. 21).

In BNW, there are also many allusions to and quotations from different works by William Shakespeare. A first example is provided by the title. In Rau's edition, the origin of the title is explained just after the motto of the novel by referring to William Shakespeare, The Tempest V, 1. Its meaning is not explained, which is no disadvantage because of the following reason. In the text of BNW, the same quotation occurs at the end of chapter 8 (p. 121), where it is spoken by John the Savage and undoubtedly meant sincerely. However, it is quoted by John again in chapter 15 (pp. 182-183), and now he has realized what the London utopian state is like so that the quotation takes an ironic tinge. In this case, then, the students may arrive at an appropriate interpretation as they proceed reading the whole text. In addition to the act and the scene, Arnold gives the exact lines in the Shakespeare play (p. 119, p. 181) so that it is easy to locate them. Apart from that, the students also have the chance of becoming aware of the fact that the Shakespearean quotation undergoes a change of meaning in the course of the novel.

In dealing with the Shakespeare quotations, Arnold always uses the same procedure: he gives the title of the work, the act, the scene, and the exact line(s), which seems to be in accordance with common sense. Thus when the reader comes across "the multitudinous seas incardine", he is told that this is a quotation from Macbeth, II, ii, 61 (p. 100); Arnold's location, then, is as precise as it can be. Rau uses a slightly different procedure: he refers to the act and the scene and describes the context of the quotation in question (p. 103); he practises this every time a quotation from a Shakespearean drama occurs in Huxley's work. I have found only one exception to the rule: this concerns a quotation from The Tempest, where there is no description of the context (p. 190). Contextual information may be a practical advantage for the students since they are unlikely to possess a critical edition of Shakespeare's works in which they may look up the references.

Thus there are only minor differences in quality between the commentaries of the two editions. There can be no doubt about the fact that both are helpful for learners and teachers.

Bio-bibliographical information

Both the editions by Rau and by Arnold include a survey on the author's life and a photo of him. Arnold's is the briefer one: he just gives an account of the most important stages in Huxley's life (e.g. his studies at Oxford, his movement to the U.S.A.) and mentions three of his works only: Antic Hay (1923), his first novel, Brave New World (1932), which became his best-known work, and Island (1962), a positive utopia. He also mentions that Huxley was permanently interested in social relations and sexuality and that he had a profound knowledge of philosophy and society (p. 224).

Rau's account is more informative (pp. 3-4). He starts from two of Huxley's prejudices which are typical of the English upper-middle class he was born into: he had a disdain for the masses and was definitely anti-American, which did not prevent him from moving to the U.S.A. permanently in the 1930s (p. 3). But the reader also learns that the author's life was full of personal tragedies, such as his mother's early death, his brother's suicide, his own near blindness, etc. It may also be interesting for German pupils to learn that the book was immediately banned by the Nazis (p. 4).
In addition, many other works by Huxley are quoted. Like Arnold, Rau also mentions that Huxley experimented with drugs in order to study their effects on human consciousness. In 1955, his first wife Maria died of breast cancer. In 1956 he married Laura, an author herself, who outlived him many years (she only died in December 2007, aged 96). In 1960 Huxley was diagnosed of lung cancer, which probably was a result of his heavy smoking. He died on November 22, 1963, the same day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated (p. 4).
On the whole, then, Rau's account is much more colourful since it provides the reader with an easy access to Huxley's personality and his literary works. It has to be pointed out, however, that in neither of the two teaching models considered in part II of this contribution (cf. Analysis of two new teaching guides), Huxley's biography plays a major part.

Additional texts

There is no supplementary material in the Cornelsen edition, yet four additional texts may be found in Arnold's Teacher's Manual (pp. 51-58). There are three texts for further study in Rau's edition: "Second Thoughts on Brave New World" by Huxley; (pp. 224-234; this is Huxley's "Foreword" published not before 1946); another excerpt from Huxley's American Diary (pp. 237-238) and a text by Bertrand Russell (pp. 235-236).
The last two texts are used by Silke Horst in her teaching guide in order to have the students characterize the making of BNW (cf. Analysis of two new teaching guides). In this respect, the Klett edition is more attractive; on the other hand, all three texts in Rau's new edition are to be found in Rau's earlier volume of Annotations quoted above, and there is even much more material for further study in that book.
This means that for the teacher who happens to possess copies of Huxley's text and Rau's Annotations, it is somewhat disappointing that the 'new' edition is endowed with a shortened version of an earlier publication. For the students, however, there are two practical advantages: they may buy a text, annotations and commentary in one volume. This is not only cheaper, but also more convenient for practical work in the classroom.
In her teaching model, Silke Horst does not make use of the text taken from Huxley's "Foreword" in class. However, Arnold uses an extract from it for testing purposes.(6) Moreover, the text by Russell about a future scientific society may also be found in Arnold's Teacher's Manual.(7)So again one has the impression that in these publications the differences between the approaches to Huxley are very minor.

To conclude: both the editions of Huxley's BNW may be recommended for instructional purposes. Personally I think that Rau's edition of the text (Klett) is preferable to that by Arnold (Cornelsen).


(1) Cf. Ingrid Sonnhütter, Stundenblätter. Aldous Huxley: 'Brave New World'. Stuttgart: Klett, 2. Auflage, 1984.

(2) Angela Luz/Brigitte Prischtt, Aldous Huxley: 'Brave New World'. EinFach Englisch Unterrichtsmodell, Paderborn: Schöningh, 2005: cf. Willi Real "A Critical Analysis of a New Teaching Model concerning Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World ", http://www./telic.de.vu. Uploaded on 10-8-2005.

(3) Cf. Rudolph F. Rau, Aldous Huxley: 'Brave New World'. Annotations and Study Aids. Stuttgart: Klett, 1991, which was based on the Flamingo Harper Collins edition, 1994. Both will now be replaced by the 2007 edition quoted above.

(4) Arnold, Heinz, Brave New World. Teacher's Manual (Berlin: Cornelsen, 2008), p. 40.

(5) This mistake occurs again in his Teacher's Manual, p. 48.

(6) Cf. Teacher's Manual, pp. 61-62.

(7) Cf. Teacher's Manual, pp. 51-52.

Last Updated by Dr. Willi Real on Wednesday, 17 September, 2008 at 9:05 AM.

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