Iris Murdoch Other literary forms

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Iris Murdoch (MUR-dok) produced a considerable amount of work in areas other than fiction, particularly in literary criticism, drama, and, most important, philosophy. Her first book, Sartre: Romantic Rationalist (1953), was a critique of Jean-Paul Sartre’s philosophy as it appears in his novels. She wrote three plays for the theater and adapted several of her novels for the stage. The Servants and the Snow was first performed at the Greenwich Theatre in 1970, and The Three Arrows at the Arts Theatre, Cambridge, in 1972; the two plays were published together in 1973. Another play, Art and Eros, was performed at the National Theatre in 1980. Murdoch collaborated with J. B. Priestley to adapt her novel A Severed Head for the stage (pr. 1963) and with James Saunders to adapt The Italian Girl (pr. 1967). The Black Prince was also adapted for the stage, first performed at the Aldwych Theatre in 1989.

Murdoch also produced books on the subject of philosophy: The Sovereignty of Good (1970), which consists of three essays on moral philosophy, “The Idea of Perfection,” “On ’God’ and ’Good,’” and “The Sovereignty of Good over Other Concepts”; and The Fire and the Sun: Why Plato Banished the Artists (1977), a study of Plato’s objections to art and artists. Murdoch added to her work on Plato in the form of two “platonic dialogues” titled “Art and Eros: A Dialogue about Art” and “Above the Gods: A Dialogue about Religion,” which she combined in a book titled Acastos: Two Platonic Dialogues, published in 1986. Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals appeared in 1992, and a collection of essays titled Existentialists and Mystics: Writings on Philosophy and Literature was published in 1997. Murdoch also published several philosophical papers in the Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society and other important articles on philosophy and aesthetics, including “The Sublime and the Good” (Chicago Review) and “The Sublime and the Beautiful Revisited” (Yale Review). Her best-known essay, “Against Dryness: A Polemical Sketch,” which appeared in the January, 1961, issue of Encounter, is a work of literary criticism that urges a return to the capacious realism of the great nineteenth century novelists.