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Prof. Robert Zaretsky: Choosing Iris Murdoch

Prof. Robert Zaretsky’s class, Reading for Life and Love: Iris Murdoch as Novelist and Philosopher, is starting on March 19, and we wanted to know what inspired him to teach this particular class.

“Why did I choose to teach a class on Dame Iris Murdoch? Well, because most Americans who do recognize Murdoch’s name do so thanks to another Dame, Judi Dench. In the 2001 film “Iris,” based on the memoir written by Murdoch’s husband John Bayley, Dench movingly portrays Murdoch’s struggle with dementia until her death on February 8, 1999. 

Since her death, Murdoch’s reputation has deepened not just as one of Britain’s great novelists of the 20th century, but also one of its great thinkers. A professor of philosophy for nearly two decades, Murdoch reached an audience far beyond the walls of St Anne’s College, Oxford. In her many public lectures and radio talks, essays and interviews, Murdoch addresses the great questions of moral philosophy with heart-stopping clarity and urgency.

This is true for her fiction no less than her philosophy. This is why I thought to mark the 25th anniversary of her death by reading and discussing in my class at WIH one of Murdoch’s great later novels, The Black Prince, along with one of her most remarkable essays, The Sovereignty of Good. As Murdoch would want it, these works reveal the importance of attention in the good life and the moral life.”

Read this fascinating article written by Prof. Zaretsky and published in “The American Scholar” – Iris as Pupil… Before this canonical English writer published novels, she was a student of French postwar philosophy… “What time could be better than now to turn off your screen, open up a Murdoch novel, or simply open yourself to the world and the persons seated next to you?”

Learn more and register for Prof. Zaretsky’s upcoming class, Reading for Life and Love: Iris Murdoch as Novelist and Philosopher, here!