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Title: The problem of identity in the novels of Iris Murdoch
Author: Humes, Walter M.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3584 2484
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 1972
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Iris Murdoch's novels are approached by way of the problem of identity, which forms a background to all her writing, both fiction and non-fiction. Psychological evidence relating to the concept of identity is considered and a definition, suitable for use in the field of literary criticism, is framed. It is argued that this approach allows for a just appraisal of Miss Murdoch's powers of characterization, which have been subject to attack. Evidence is presented to show that her treatment of character has been misrepresented in certain respects, partly because of too great a reliance by some critics on the terns of her own critical articles, and partly because of a failure to appreciate the function of the elements of fantasy and convention in her novels. Those points are made in the first two chapters of the thesis, which are intended to provide a framework within which the novels can be discussed. In chapters 3, 4 and 5 the problem of identity is examined in relation to three recurrent themes - the force of the past, freedom and love - and it is concluded that Miss Murdoch is a selective realist, the realism depending on her rendering of states of consciousness and on the incisive moral analysis to which she subjects her characters. Miss Murdoch's moral outlook is given prominence throughout the thesis, but especially in chapter 6, which deals with the later novels. Chapter 7 is devoted to a detailed examination of the techniques Miss Murdoch employs in her representation of mental processes and an attempt is made to estimate her relation to earlier psychological novelists; this involves comparisons with Henry James and Virginia Woolf. In the final chapter, the significance of Miss Murdoch's failure to embody the social components of identity in her novels is considered and a tentative general evaluation is offered.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available