CFP: Reading Love with Murdoch: Philosophy and Literature in the Work of Iris Murdoch
As Iris Murdoch notes in a journal entry in 1976, “[…] love is the only subject on which I am really an expert.” A special issue of the journal SLI: Studies in the Literary Imagination in 2019 will be dedicated to a commemoration of the centenary of her birth and the twentieth anniversary of her death. The issue invites a re-reading of Murdoch’s well-known philosophical works Sartre: Romantic Rationalist (1953), The Sovereignty of Good (1970), The Fire and the Sun (1977), Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (1992), and Existentialists and Mystics: Writings on Philosophy and Literature (1997) vis-à-vis her 26 novels. It will focus specifically on an examination of the problem of love and its vicissitudes as depicted in Murdoch’s oeuvre.
For the neo-Platonic philosopher Murdoch, the highest love is in a sense impersonal, achievable only in the forms of art through an engaged attention, a selfless contemplation, and imagination. On the other hand, she admits that there is a significant disturbance caused by the egos involved in the day-to-day human relations. As she argues, “The individual is contingent, full of private stuff and accidental rubble, and must be accepted as such, not thought of as embryonic rational agent, or in terms of some social theory.” (“Morals and Politics”)
The papers selected will explore the ways in which Murdoch’s novels touch upon both aspects by engaging in a dialogue between the philosophical understanding of the selfless love and the “rubble” of the egotistic love. If in Murdoch’s philosophy love is a movement towards the absolute Good, love in her novels is invariably depicted as a series of moral choices towards the knowable goodness.