Iris Murdoch, Australia and Me

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In this chapter Gillian Dooley surveys ‘Iris Murdoch, Australia and Me’. (Dooley’s monograph, Listening to Iris Murdoch: Music, Sounds and Silences (2022) was the first work to be published in the ‘Iris Murdoch Today’ series.) Here, in a vivacious piece of life-writing she recounts her journey which began as an isolated Murdoch reader in the 1970s when Murdoch was not much studied in literature courses at schools or universities in Australia. Drawing on research she undertook, Dooley analyses the situation, but what she modestly does not emphasise is that she herself almost singlehandedly transformed the Australian response to Murdoch by her enthusiasm, hard work and publications, beginning with her doctoral thesis and continuing with the interview collection, A Tiny Corner in the House of Fiction (2003), which instantly became, and still remains, a vital tool in the kit of every Murdoch scholar. Learning how this developed is a fascinating detail of literary history, as is the story retold here—drawing on letters and journal entries—of Murdoch’s interaction with Australia. Extending her earlier essay, ‘“You are my Australia”: Brian Medlin’s contribution to Iris Murdoch’s concept of Australia in The Green Knight’, Dooley analyses how Murdoch, rather clumsily—'the Australia of her imagination is a distant and rather fantastic world’ (128)—used this experience in her fiction. Murdoch’s correspondence with Medlin—the Australian philosopher with whom she had ‘a warm friendship’ (122)—which Dooley edited with Graham Nerlich, is unique in being the only symmetrical set of letters in the Murdoch letters collection. Dooley’s essay begins by saying that when she was a young student, ‘Murdoch had somehow caught the atmosphere and tone of the society I was living in—the danger and the excitement and the pain. One was always in love with the wrong person, or consoling someone else who was in love with the wrong person’ (114). Decades later she concludes that ‘Murdoch’s books somehow help one be happy with—even perhaps to glory in—one’s own oddness and the strangeness and sadness of one’s life’ (128). Dooley’s personal story confirms not only the impact Murdoch’s novels make on individual lives, but also the importance of the Iris Murdoch Society as a network of scholars and students across the world. Her connection with this academic group encouraged and enabled the scholarship which Dooley has richly contributed to Murdoch studies.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIris Murdoch and the LIterary Imagination
EditorsMiles Leeson, Frances White
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-031-27216-5
ISBN (Print)978-3-031-27215-8
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Publication series

NameIris Murdoch Today
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISSN (Print)2631-331X
ISSN (Electronic)2731-3328


  • Iris Murdoch
  • Australia
  • Fiction
  • Memoir


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