Philosophy's dangerous pupil: Murdoch and Derrida

Bran Nicol

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The anguish of the philosopher comes about because philosophy touches impossibility [. . .]. It's impossible for the human mind to dominate the things which haunt it. --Iris Murdoch, "Iris Murdoch." What is the relation between philosophy and literature in Murdoch's writing? The question has often been raised in discussions of her work, even though Murdoch herself always seemed quite clear about the answer. Time and again in interviews she patiently maintained that while her novels did contain philosophical discussions they were certainly not "philosophical novels," nor did she set out deliberately to dramatize in fiction the philosophical questions that interested her. Speaking in 1976 Murdoch explained that in her fiction "there's just a sort of atmosphere and, as it were, tension and direction which is sometimes given by a philosophical interest, but not anything very explicit" ("Iris Murdoch in Conversation" 5-6). In 1985 she claimed even more forcefully that she felt no "tension" as a result of the demands placed on her by philosophy and art other than that produced by the fact that "both pursuits take up time" ("Iris Murdoch" 198). Most conclusive of all, perhaps, her opinion seems to be justified by the work itself, which manages to preserve a...
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)580-601
Number of pages22
JournalModern Fiction Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2001


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