Sexuality, Gender, and Power in Iris Murdoch's Fiction

Sexuality, Gender, and Power in Iris Murdoch's Fiction

Sexuality, Gender, and Power in Iris Murdoch's Fiction

Sexuality, Gender, and Power in Iris Murdoch's Fiction

Synopsis

This book examines the depiction of the social construction of male homosexuality, lesbianism, and women's role in The Bell, A Fairly Honourable Defeat, An Accidental Man, The Philosopher's Pupil, and The Green Knight. It also explores the representation of power dynamics in the portrayal of homosexuality in Murdoch's fiction and takes a detailed look at the illustration of power-knowledge vis-a-vis incest in A Severed Head and The Time of the Angels.

Excerpt

In a 1968 interview, Iris Murdoch explained, “SEX is connected with [the] extension of power, with the way in which we make other people play roles in our lives—dominating or slave roles. So this sort of drama is a fundamental expression of sex, though it has other aspects connected with power in what seems to be a much more primitive sense.” Despite the interest in the themes of power and sexuality that the author expressed in this and other interviews, there is currently a dearth of criticism on the representation of these themes in her fiction. As Peter J. Conradi points out in his recent biography, Iris Murdoch: a Life, critics of Murdoch’s fiction have often failed to see that the theme of power was a deep obsession in her work. in addition, there are very few studies available at present on the representation of gender and sexuality in her fiction. Deborah Johnson’s book, which explores the representation of gender in the first-person male narratives, provides a useful feminist analysis of the fiction, while W. S. Hampl’s recent article offers a queer reading of several of Murdoch’s novels. This study aims to explore the overlooked theme of power in Murdoch’s fiction, particularly the interplay of power, gender, and sexuality in her characters’ personal and social relationships.

Gender and sexuality were important topics for Murdoch to consider in her fiction because her views on aesthetics and philosophy were integral to her representation of these themes. the author often stated that she wished to write in the realist tradition and to be considered a realist writer. Social relationships and other social considerations affected the themes that she considered in her fiction because she wanted to reflect on and illustrate realistically the social scene of her epoch. Thinking about the effect of social forces on the expression of one’s gender and sexuality thus enabled the author’s impulse toward realism.

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