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Title: An Iris in the sun: perception-reception-perception in Iris Murdoch's novels of the good
Author(s): Ariturk, Nur Nilgun
Issue Date: 1997
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: Murdoch considers herself a 'Christian fellow-traveller', 'a kind of Platonist' and a 'sort of Buddhist', all of which summarise her spirit of writing very well. Iris Murdoch places a very serious obligation on the artist to present reality to his/her observers/readers. In almost all her philosophical articles, books, and interviews, she expresses with great emphasis the task of art, especially prose literature, as a form of education for moral development. In that sense, we can call her a moralist and a 'philosophical' novelist. With her 'Novels of the Good' Iris Murdoch is inviting the reader for a 'journey into the iris', saying: 'I am the Iris; come into me and see. ' The message of her novels is not of 'philosophy' but of everyday moral reality. In other words, reading Murdochian novels is reading morals. This is the main argument in this study. The moral education (preception) of the reader by Iris Murdoch is to 'realise' (receive) the 'perception' of the other--hence the title of the thesis--through her 'novels of character'. For Murdoch, appreciating a work of art is no different than knowing another person(s). The good artist and the good person have, in that respect, the same moral discipline. And this disciplined attention brings with it the true perception and clarity and morally right behaviour. The reader has to attend with moral responsibility to the work of art because it is through literature that s/he can enlarge his/her vision and inner space. The thesis is divided into two main sections: the moral precepts and their exemplification as concrete everyday examples in her novels themselves. The Introduction provides the 'philosophical' and theoretical background for Murdoch's 'Novels of the Good'. Included here is a dictionary of some of the major 'concepts', or rather 'precepts' that Murdoch uses both in her novels and her philosophical articles and books, in order to train her reader to gain ethical vision. Also included in this chapter is a section on reading and readers through structuralist and reader-oriented theories in contrast to or comparison with Murdoch's conception/perception of the 'reader' in her novels. Chapter I switches on the 'machine', Murdoch's &camera-eye' on the egoistic human 'psyche', which Murdoch likens to a machine. Chapter 11 discusses this 'machine' in close-up, that is through first-person narrative novels. Chapter 111, which includes novels that have philosophers at the centre, throws a 'light' on philosophy and everyday reality. Chapter IV explores the importance of death in everyday life. However, although the chapters are divided under different titles, the novels discussed in each chapter can be related to the rest as Murdoch discusses the same precepts recurrently in different contexts which gives her novels the 'serial' characteristic. Each novel is part of the reader's pilgrimage to the Good to understand his/her limitations in the face of the contingent reality represented in her fiction through free individual characters. To enter the Murdochland is to enter the cycle of 'arriving at not arriving'.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation
Affiliation: School of Arts and Humanities
Literature and Languages

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