'Past forgiving?': the experience of remorse in the writings of Iris Murdoch

White, Frances Clare Patricia (2010) 'Past forgiving?': the experience of remorse in the writings of Iris Murdoch. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This thesis identifies the concept of remorse as critically significant in Iris Murdoch's moral psychology and art. It analyses the function of remorse as the counterpoint to love, which Murdoch defines as attention to the reality of the other, and demonstrates the potential remorse to induce 'unselfing' which leads to the Good. Close readings of selected texts which manifest Murdoch's developing concern with remorse engage in dialogues with simone Weil's analysis of affliction and with contemporary philosophical, theological and psychological theories of remorse. These dialogues, which differentiate chronic and lucid forms of remorse, establish Murdoch's innovative contribution to what is herein identified as emerging field of remorse studies. The study begins by demonstrating Murdoch's releance to current philosophical debate on remorse with reference to The Nice and the and The Philosopher's Pupil. It proceeds to explore how her 'neo-theology' links remorse with the concepts of repentance and forgiveness, discussed with reference to A Wordand The Book and the Brotherhood. A discussion of contemporary discourses of trauma theory and 'primal wounding' follows, which classifies The Good Apprentice as her Ur-text on lucid remorse, explores how The Green Knight engages with the concomitant issue of remorse, and contends that Murdoch's work warrants inclusion within the genre of trauma fiction. An investigation into Murdoch's parallel concern with Holocaust narratives and Heidegger's lack of remorse in The Message to the Planet, Jackson's Dilemma and Heidegger: The Pursuit of Being (her unpublished manuscript) follows, which relates herto current Holocaust theory and argues that her fiction merits inclusion within the 'third category' of Holocaust literature. Finally, biographical factors in Murdoch's increasing stress remorse and her mystical presentation of remorse in The One Alone endorse the importance remorse accrues in her moral vision and substantiate the claim that remorse acts ethical index in Murdoch's philosophy, while her fictional dramatisations of remorse invite an ethical response from readers and offer a form of bibliotherapy for the commonwoe of remorse.

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