26 June 2023By Heather RobbinsBlog

A Letter to the Board of Education - The Timeless Work of Iris Murdoch and Why it Must be Studied by Students in the Years To Come

Dear Sir/Madam

This letter is written on behalf of the current and future literature students of our country. It has come to my attention that the novels of Iris Murdoch are no longer being taught in British schools, and the youth of today are no longer being enriched with the knowledge and insight provided by her works. I hope to convince you to reinstate her novels and philosophical works in the curriculum of British schools and, by consequence, reap the benefits of such action in the higher quality of education received by the future of our nation.

There are various aspects of Murdoch’s works which render them perfect for use in educational settings. Although there are elements of moral philosophy present in her novels, the novels remain comprehensible and, most importantly, compelling and engaging to a reader. This entertaining aspect of her written work is of great significance regarding their eligibility to be taught in schools – what can students truly learn from a book they do not wish to read? Murdoch’s books have a unique pairing of dramatic plot and alluring, emotional characters intricately intwined with complex and highly relevant moral philosophy. This combination is clearly displayed in her bestselling 1958 novel The Bell, which is a brilliantly comic tale of love, wealth and fame. The themes of the book are a captivating blend of cruelty and religion, subtly teaching the reader a lesson on both.

The nuanced teachings of her novels are not the only feature making them accessible and significant to education. The books are filled with germane themes which are intrinsic to society today. Iris Murdoch was ahead of her time in many ways, her philosophical work in particular being appreciated decades after her death. Her views on gender fluidity and sexuality were innovative and the way in which she communicates said views is of novel dynamism. Students would be given the opportunity to learn of her personal life as contextual information relating to her work, and in so doing would gain great insight into the intriguing life she led, and also learn from her fascinatingly tangled and occasionally tragic relationships, as well as her internal struggles and complexities.

This letter, in order to hold some gravity, must acknowledge the criticism of her novels, focusing mostly on the narrower class perspective which they provide. It is indeed true that her works focus on the ‘bubble’ of the upper classes. However, I do not think that this diminishes their pertinence and educational value. The novels merely present a more nuanced view of these key societal themes, through the lens of middle to upper classes’ relationships and experiences. Accusations that her books are ‘uptight’ and somewhat ‘lofty’ are unfounded, as the presence of apposite themes such as deviance and gender fluidity prove otherwise.

To conclude my proposal, I believe that these woks have the power not just to educate, but to inspire the next generation. Iris Murdoch was an excellent novelist and philosopher, and the loss of the teaching of her works would be a travesty for literature.

Yours faithfully,

Odessa Lidsrom

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