The ideal of living ‘in community’, of creating an ideal world in miniature, was an underlying leitmotif of late Victorian and 20th century English literary culture, and was of particular interest to Iris Murdoch, author of The Bell. To my mind this is one of her best novels, being the most open to the eddying currents of belief, faith and doubt in the post-war climate of political and social reconstruction. This principally resulted from her ambivalent relationship to the Anglican faith – Peter Conradi at one point describes her as an ‘Anglo-Catholic retreatant’ – and her fascination with the monastic tradition.
This collection includes four essays dealing directly with the writings of Iris Murdoch and reflecting work of my own from the years 2015-20. The essays in question are ‘The Varieties of Attention’ (not previously published but presented to a conference at Queen Mary, University of London in 2017), ‘The Elusiveness of the Ethical: From Murdoch to Diamond’, ‘Post-Existentialist Moments: Murdoch and Highsmith’, and ‘Iris Murdoch and the Quality of Consciousness’.