Iris Murdoch

Iris Murdoch (Jean Iris Murdoch, 15 July 1919 – 8 February 1999) was an  Anglo-Irish novelist and philosopher.

Murdoch studied classics at Somerville College, Oxford. She was awarded a first-class honours degree in 1942. She went into the civil service and was assistant principal in the Treasury from 1942 to 1944. From 1944 to 1946, she worked with refugees at the United Nations Relief Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) in Brussels, Innsbruck, and Graz. Murdoch won a scholarship to study at Vassar College in 1946, but was refused a visa to enter the United States because she had joined the Communist Party in 1938, while a student at Oxford. She left the party in 1942. From 1947 to 1948, Murdoch studied philosophy as a postgraduate at Newnham College, Cambridge. In 1948, she became a fellow of St Anne’s College, Oxford, where she taught philosophy until 1963. From 1963 to 1967, she taught at the Royal College of Art.

In 1976 she was named to the Commander of Order of the British Empire, and in 1982, Murdoch was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1987, she was made a Dame Commander of Order of the British Empire. She was awarded honorary degrees by the University of Bath (1983), University of Cambridge (1993) and Kingston University (1994), among others.

Iris Murdoch was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1997 and died in 1999 in Oxford.


  • Man Booker Prize (1978) for The Sea, the Sea



  • Under the Net (1954)
  • The Flight from the Enchanter (1956)
  • The Sandcastle (1957)
  • The Bell (1958)
  • A Severed Head (1961)
  • An Unofficial Rose (1962)
  • The Unicorn (1963)
  • The Italian Girl (1964)
  • The Red and the Green (1965)
  • The Time of the Angels (1966)
  • The Nice and the Good (1968)
  • Bruno’s Dream (1969)
  • A Fairly Honourable Defeat (1970)
  • An Accidental Man (1971)
  • The Black Prince (1973)
  • The Sacred and Profane Love Machine (1974)
  • A Word Child (1975)
  • Henry and Cato (1976)
  • The Sea, the Sea (1978)
  • Nuns and Soldiers (1980)
  • The Philosopher’s Pupil (1983)
  • The Good Apprentice (1985)
  • The Book and the Brotherhood (1987)
  • The Message to the Planet (1989)
  • The Green Knight (1993)
  • Jackson’s Dilemma (1995)

Short Stories

  • Something Special (1957)


  • Sartre: Romantic Rationalist (1953)
  • The Sovereignty of Good (1970)
  • The Fire and the Sun (1977)
  • Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (1992)
  • Existentialists and Mystics: Writings on Philosophy and Literature, edited by P.J. Conradi (1997)


  • The Three Arrows; The Servants and the Snow (1972)
  • The Servants (1980)
  • Acastos: Two Platonic Dialogues (1986)

Poetry collections

  • A Year of Birds (1978; revised edition, 1984)
  • Poems by Iris Murdoch (1997)

Letters & Diaries

  • Living on Paper: Letters from Iris Murdoch, 1934-1995, by Iris Murdoch, edited by Avril Homer and Anne Rowe (2015)
  • Iris Murdoch, a Writer at War: Letters and Diaries, 1939-1945, by Iris Murdoch, edited by Peter Conradi  (2011)

Books about her

  • Elegy for Iris, by John Bayley (1999)
  • Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch, by John Bayley (1998 )
  • Iris and Her Friends: A Memoir of Memory and Desire, by John Bayley (1999)
  • Iris Murdoch: A Life, by P.J. Conradi (2001)
  • From a Tiny Corner in the House of Fiction: Conversations With Iris Murdoch, edited by Gillian Dooley (2003)
  • With Love and Rage: A Friendship with Iris Murdoch, by David Morgan (2010)
  • Iris Murdoch as I Knew Her, by A. N. Wilson (2003)
  • Murdoch’s life was portrayed by Kate Winslet and Judi Dench in Richard Eyre’s film Iris (2001, IMDb)

Books about her work

  • Picturing the human: the moral thought of Iris Murdoch, by Maria Antonaccio (2000)
  • Understanding Iris Murdoch, by Cheryl Bove (1993)
  • Iris Murdoch and the Common Reader, by Liz Dexter (2017)
  • The Saint and the Artist, by P.J. Conradi (1986)
  • Degrees of Freedom: The Early Novels of Iris Murdoch, by A. S. Byatt (1965)
  • Iris Murdoch’s Ethics: A Consideration of Her Romantic Vision, by Megan Laverty (2007)
  • The Moral Vision of Iris Murdoch, by Heather Widdows (2005)
  • Iris Murdoch’s Contemporary Retrieval of Plato: The Influence of an Ancient Philosopher on a Modern Novelist, by Sonja Zuba (2009)



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