Iris Murdoch (1919-99)
b. Blessington, Co. Dublin, her mother being a trained opera singer who married at 18; visited Ireland as a child; ed. Badminton and Oxford, 1942 (Classics); wartime employment in Whitehall; engaged in post-war UN relief for Belgium and Austria; took Sarah Smithson studentship in Philosophy at Newnham Coll., Cambridge; Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at St. Annes College, Oxford, spent 13 years; ; Irish concerns and characters include the Protestant Jake and his Catholic manservant Finn in Under the Net (1954); passionate relationship with Elias Canetti, her black prince, but m. John Bayley, 1956;
issued The Sandcastle (1957), concerning Tim Burke; issued Something Special, a story concerning an Irish girl (Yvonne Geary) and her relationship with her mother and with her spurned lover, the Jewish Dublin boy Sam; Martin Lynch-Gibbon in A Severed Head (1961); issued The Red and the Green (1965), set at Castle Gaze, Co.Wicklow, where Peter Crean-Smith incarcerates his wife over the period of the 1916 Rising; other Irish characters incl. Pati Driscoll - half-Irish and half-Jamaican - in Time of the Angels (1966) and Fivey in Nice and the Good (1968);
issued Sacred and Profane Love Machine (1974); issued The Sea, The Sea (1978), on anIrish theme, winner of the Booker Prize; much affected by Alzheimers in latter years, having written 26 novels in all; her life with John Bayley was the subject of a memoir by him (Iris 1998), later made into a film (Iris, 2001) which won a Bafta award for Judi Dench - with Kate Winslett as the younger Iris; there is an obit. by Lorna Sage in Times Literary Supplement (19 Feb. 1999); there is an adultatory biography by Peter Conradi (2002) and a more hostile study by A. N. Wilson (2003). DIW OCEL OCIL WJM
Literature could be said to be a sort of disciplined technique for arousing certain emotions. (The Listener, 1978.)
Iris Murdoch famously said that being a woman is like being Irish ... everyone says youre important and nice, but you take second place all the time. (Quoted in Anne Enright, "Diary", London Review of Books, 19 Sept. 2017.
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- Under the Net (1954);
- The Flight from the Enchanter (1956);
- The Sandcastle (1957);
- The Bell (1958);
- A Severed Head (1961);
- An Unofficial Rose (1962);
- The Unicorn (1963);
- The Red and the Green (1965);
- The Italian Girl (London: Chatto & Windus 1964), 214pp., ills. by Reynolds Stone;
- The Red and the Green and The Time of the Angels (1966);
- Brunos Dream (1969);
- The Nice and the Good (1968);
- A Fairly Honourable Defeat (1970);
- An Accidental Man (1971);
- The Black Prince (1973);
- The Sacred and Profane Love Machine (1974);
- A Word Child (1975);
- Henry and Cato (1976);
- The Sea, The Sea (1978);
- Nuns and Soldiers (1980);
- The Philosophers Pupil (1983);
- The Good Apprentice (1985);
- The Message to the Planet (1989);
- The Green Knight (London: Chatto & Windus 1993);
- Jacksons Dilemma (London: Chatto & Windus 1995), 249pp.
- Sartre: Romantic Realist (1953);
- The Sovereignty of Good (1970);
- Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (London: Chatto & Windus/Viking 1992);
- Existentialists and Mystics: Writings on Philosophy and Literature (London: Chatto & Windus ), 546pp.
See also The Sublime and Beautiful Revisited, in The Yale Review, XLIX (Winter 1959) [q.pp.]; Against Dryness: A Polemical Sketch , in The Novel Today, ed. Malcolm Bradbury (London: Fontana 1975), cp.24; . Also, Something Special: A Short Story  (London: Chatto & Windus 1999), 41pp.
Reprints in 2003:
An Accidental Man (London: Vintage 2003), 384pp.; The Book and the Brotherhood (London: Vintage 2003), 608pp.; The Sacred and Profane Love Machine (London: Vintage 2003), 576pp.; The Sandcastle (London: Vintage 2003), 320pp. Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (London: Vintage 2003), 576pp. See also New York Review of Books, Archive [infra.]
- Three Plays, The Black
Prince, The Three Arrows, The Servants and the Snow (1st ed. Chatto
and Windus 1989), 303pp.
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Irish Murdoch grills Jiddu Kristnamurti on his Buddhist use of the word experience and other matters in a 2-hour talk on 18 October 1984 - available on Youtube [online; accessed 25.05.2012].
Miscellaneous, Reynolds in Stone: A
Memorial Address (Warren Press 1981) [ltd. edn. 300].
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- Peter Wolfe, The Disciplined Heart: Irish Murdoch and Her Novels (Missouri UP 1966);
- A. S. Byatt, Degrees of Freedom: The Novels of Iris Murdoch: (London: Chatto & Windus 1965);
- Linda Kuehl, Iris Murdoch: The Novelist as Magician/The Magician as Artist', in Modern Fiction Studies, 15, 3 (1969), pp.347-60;
- Frank Baldanza, Iris Murdoch (Twayne 1974);
- Donna Gerstenberger, Iris Murdoch [The Irish Writers Ser.] Bucknell UP 1975), 85pp.;
- Michael O. Bellamy, An Interview with Iris Murdoch, in Contemporary Literature, 18, 2 (Spring 1977), pp.129-40 [interview of 23 June 1976; text approved by Murdoch];
[available at JSTOR - online];
- Jack I. Biles, An Interview with Iris Murdoch', in Studies in the Literary Imagination 11 (1978) [q.pp.];
- Norman Vance, Iris Murdochs Serious Fun, in Theology, 84 (November 1981), pp.420-28;
- John Fletcher, Reading Beckett with Iris Murdochs Eyes', in AUMLA, 55 (1981), pp.7-14;
- Kingsley Widmer, The Wages of Intellectuality [...] and the Fictional Wagers of Iris Murdoch', in Twentieth-Century Women Novelists, ed Thomas Staley (London: Macmillan 1982), pp.16-38;
- Elizabeth Dipple, Iris Murdoch: Work from the Spirit (Chicago UP 1982);
- S. W. Dawson, Iris Murdoch: The Limits of Contrivance', in The New Pelican Guide to English Literature: The Present, ed. Boris Ford [Vol. 8] (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1983), pp. 2224-32;
- Richard Todd, Iris Murdoch [Contemp. Writers] (London: Methuen 1984), 112pp. [incl. bibls.];
- Angela Hague, Iris Murdochs Comic Vision (Selinsgrove 1984);
- Peter Conradi, Iris Murdoch: The Saint and the Artist (London: Methuen; NY: St. Martins Press 1986), xvi, 304pp.;
- Deborah Johnson, Iris Murdoch (Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf 1987);
- Suguna Ramanathan, Iris Murdoch, Figures of Good (1990);
- David Scott Arnold, Liminal Readings, Forms of Otherness in Melville, Joyce and Murdoch (Macmillan 1993), 161pp.;
- Tom Shippey, In a Magic Circle', review of The Green Knight, in Times Literary Supplement (10 Sept. 1993), p.20;
- David J. Gordon, Iris Murdochs Fables of Unselfing (Missouri UP 1995), 199pp.;
- Mario Antonaccio & William Schweiker, eds., Iris Murdoch and the Search for Human Goodness (Chicago UP ), 266pp.;
- Flora Alexander, Iris Murdochs Moral Comedy, Theresa OConnor, ed., The Comic Tradition in Irish Women Writers (Florida UP 1996), pp.99-107;
- Hilda D. Spear, Iris Mudoch [Modern Novelists Ser.] (Basingstoke: Macmillan 1996);
- John Bayley, Iris: A Memoir of Irish Murdoch (London: Duckworth 1998), 189pp.;
- Peter Conradi, Iris Murdoch: A Life (London: HarperCollins 2001), 706pp.;
- A. N. Wilson, Iris Murdoch as I Knew Her (London: Hutchinson 2003), 384pp.;
- Margaret Reynolds & Jonathan Noakes, Iris Murdoch: The Essential Guide (London: Vintage 2004), 224pp.
See also A. S. Byatt & Inês Sodré, [interview], in Imagining Characters: Six Conversations about Women Writers. ed. Rebecca Swift (London: Chatto 1995), q.pp.
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|Titles from Continuum (London) incl. ...
- Megan Laverty, Iris Murdoch's Ethics: A Consideration of Her Romantic Vision (London: Continuum 2007), 160pp.
- Marije Altorf, Iris Murdoch and the Art of Imagining (London: Continuum 2009), 160pp.
- Miles Leeson, Iris Murdoch: Philosophical Novelist (London: Continuum 2010), 208pp.
Lorna Sage, Women in the House of Fiction, Post-war Women Novelists
(London: Macmillan 1992), 16pp, includes discussion of Iris Murdoch, of
which reviewer Isobel Armstrong says, Iris Murdochs work,
indeed, often disparaged by feminist critics, seen as both old-fashioned
and lightweight, is discussed generously in this book, and is re-read
in the light of feminism in an absorbing way. Murdochs revisionary
realism is the reverse of Lessings. Her fiction represents the multiple
realities of contingency and rejects the single, totality of metafiction.
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Elaine Showalter, A Literature
of their Own (London: Virago [rev. edn.] 1984), bio-noe: 1919-, novelist
and philosopher; b. Dublin; ed. Badminton School, and Somerville College,
Oxford; worked with UNRRA in London, Belgium, and Austria; m. 1956, John
Bayley, don and novelist; first novel, Under the Net (1953).
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David J. Gordon, Iris Murdochs
Fables of Unselfing (Missouri UP 1995), 197pp.: also author of work
on D. H. Lawrence; discusses presence of Irish elements in her work, pp.129-30;
132-34; viz., The first chapter [of The Unicorn] could be
drawn almost unchanged from the nineteenth-century Gothicist Sheridan
Le Fanu [/ ...] An appalling landscape [Unicorn, p.117]
that is recognisably Ireland but never quite specific (p.129-30). Gordon
considers the striking thing about her The Red and the Green to
be the fact that its structure is not essentially ironic: The novel
is a retrospective tribute to the bravery of youth in a time of crisis
(p.132-33); he also mentions the systematic use made of Yeatss phrase
about terrible beauty (Easter 1916) in the novel.
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Bart Moore-Gilbert, Irish
Iris?: Iris Murdoch and Protestant Gothic, in That Other World:
The Supernatural and the Fantastic in Irish Literature (Gerrards Cross:
Colin Smythe 1999), pp.243-55, quotes: It takes a foreigner like
Nabokov or an Irishman like Beckett to animate prose language into an
imaginative stuff in its own right; [It is curious] that
modern literature, which is so much concerned with violence, contains
so few convincing pictures of evil; opposes fantasy and speaks of
of the difficulty and complexity of the moral life and the opacity
of persons [
] Real people are destructive of myth, contingency
is destructive of fantasy and opens the way for imagination. ( Against
Dryness: A Polemical Sketch , rep. in in Malcolm Bradbury,
ed., The Novel Today (London: Fontana 1975), pp.22-26. Further:
In The Unicorn (1963) Effingham Cooper, nearly mad from love
for Hannah, gets lost in the bog and nearly shares the fate of the victim
of Robartess poetic skills in Yeatss poem in The Tower;
this novel also engages with the categories in Burkes Philosophical
Enquiry into [ ...] Sublime and Beautiful (1757).
(Moore-Gilbert, op. cit., p.243.)
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Stephen Mulhall, feature review
of Mario Antonaccio and William Schweiker, eds., Iris Murdoch and the
Search for Human Goodness (Chicago UP ), in Times Literary
Supplement, 22 Aug. 1997.
Katherine Duncan-Jones, review
of John Bayley, Iris (1998), quotes: Lying beside meshe is
like an athlete who has passed on the torch to a back-up member of the
relay. I couldnt do what she had done, but I was doing something.
(Times Literary Supplement, 9 Oct. 1998, p.29.)
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Alex Clark, review of Something
Special: A Short Story , in Guardian Weekly, 11-17 Nov.
1999, p.21: Yvonne Geary, lives in cramped quarters behind the shop with
her mother with whom she shares a bed; Sam is a serious young man not
at all like the run of Jew-boys at all, acc. to her mother;
written contemporaneously with The Bell, and considered a demonstration
of her intelligence and her ability to manipulate light and shade.
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Alex Clark, reviewing Peter Conradi, Iris Murdoch: A Life (London: HarperCollins), 706pp., in Guardian
Weekly (11-17 Oct. 2001), writes: In her polemic Against
Dryness, Murdoch argues that literature must resist the temptation
to smooth over the contingencies of everyday life, saying that against
the consolations of form we must pit the destructive power of the
now so unfashionable naturalistic idea of character. Clarke
remarks, if Irish the bohemian lover juggled a post-war libertine
sensibility with a more punitive moral self-consciousness, then she met
her match in Elias Canetti, the black prince of her life,
and, later, her novels [...] mostly notably The Flight from the Enchanter.
Clark further ponders with Conradi if, in choosing Bayley over Canneti,
Murdoch was not choosing a good life over a morally dubious one.
Clark Notes influence by Sartre, Queneau and Weil, and her growing Platonism.
[See also John Bayley, infra.]
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Iris - the film: Katherine Duncan-Jones
reviews Iris in Times Literary Supplement (25 Jan. 2002),
cites as Iriss real-life lovers Eduard Fraenkel, Elias Canetti,
letter to Times Literary Supplement (12 Oct. 2001), confirms Conradis
account of Iris as a some-time spy for the Communist Party, relating that
put a letter in a drop behind trees in Hyde Park, the sole
occasion when she did so and partly the reason why she left the Communist
Party; Conradis information is from Bayley, though they agreed that
neither the source - ultimately Iris - nor the details should not be disclosed.
(Signed & addressed at St. Catherines College, Oxford.)
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