Iris Murdoch

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Murdoch, Iris


Born July 15, 1919, in Dublin. English writer.

Iris Murdoch was born into an Anglo-Irish family. She studied classical philology at Oxford University (1938–42) and philosophy at Cambridge (1947–48). She is a lecturer in philosophy at Oxford University.

In her early scholarly and literary works, Murdoch was a follower of existentialism, for example, her Sartre: Romantic Rationalist (1953). Murdoch’s novel Under the Net (1954; Russian translation, 1966) humorously and sympathetically depicts the searchers for truth among the intelligentsia of the London artistic world. The novel A Severed Head (1961; dramatization, 1963) ironically depicts the world of the affluent bourgeoisie and satirizes the fad for psychoanalysis.

While she is capable of portraying life in all its complexity— in such works as The Bell (1958) and Bruno’s Dream (1969)— Murdoch sometimes falls victim to her own plots and forced symbolism, as in The Unicorn (1963). The subject of The Red and the Green (1965; Russian translation, 1968) is the Irish Rebellion of 1916, which provides the framework for the growth and importance of the novel’s main characters. Despite the exactness of her ethical criteria, Murdoch avoids unambiguous evaluations.

In her works on aesthetic philosophy, including “Against Dryness”(1961), Murdoch regards the shortcoming of the 20th-century novel as a penchant for either dry allegory or diffuse documentary presentation and calls for a return to the realistic hero of the 19th century.


The Flight From the Enchanter. London, 1956.
The Sandcastle. London, 1957.
The Nice and the Good. London, 1968.
An Accidental Man. London, 1971.
The Black Prince. London, 1972.
In Russian translation:
Dikaia roza. Afterword by D. P. Shestakov. Moscow, 1971.


Ivasheva, V. V. Angliiskie dialogi. Moscow, 1971.
Byatt, A. S. Degrees of Freedom. London, 1965.
Rabinovitz, R. Iris Murdoch. New York-London, 1968.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
"An Interview with Iris Murdoch." From A Tiny Corner in the House of Fiction: Conversations with Iris Murdoch, edited by Gillian Dooley, U of South Carolina P, 2003, pp.
"Symbolic Characterization in the Novels of Iris Murdoch." TSLL 2.2 (1960): 189-197.
In Iris Murdoch, the philosophical writer likes to split hairs in debates hence the profound meanings behind the apparently simple ideas and gestures.
In The Unicorn Iris Murdoch successfully enriches the traditional features of Gothic fiction with Irish overtones.
The editors of Iris Murdoch: Texts and Contexts, Anne Rowe and Avril Homer, see earlier criticism as "far too rigidly constrained both by Murdoch's own philosophy and theories of the novel and the claims she made about her writing in interviews" (3).
The papers also show that in 1959 Iris Murdoch was overlooked for an honour altogether, despite the success of novels including 'The Bell', 'The Sandcastle' and 'Under The Net'.
On the philosophical side alone, there are three new books to assist one: Maria Antonaccio, A Philosophy to Live By (Oxford University Press, 2012), Iris Murdoch, Philosopher, ed.
Iris Murdoch and Morality considers, over its thirteen chapters, three distinct areas of Murdoch's work: morality and the novel, philosophy and literature and her secular theology.
"The Ascetic Impulse in Iris Murdoch's Thought." In Iris Murdoch: A Reassessment, ed.
4 Visit Portugal February 26-27 for the conference entitled "Iris Murdoch--Philosopher Meets Novelist." The keynote speaker will be Anne Rowe, Director of the Centre for Iris Murdoch Studies at Kingston University.
Dr Peter Garrard, reader in neurology at the University of Southampton's School of Medicine, previously demonstrated the presence of Alzheimer-like linguistic changes in the later writings of Dame Iris Murdoch.