Gary Browning

Current location

Oxford, Oxfordshire, South East, England, United Kingdom

Interest (Enthusiast)

Iris Murdoch


I have been aware of Iris Murdoch for a long time. I recall watching TV serialisations of The Bell and An Unofficial Rose as a young teenager and thinking how they were grown-up works that seemed like Russian epics or French existentialist novels.  Reading her philosophy as an undergraduate, and dipping into her novels, strengthened ,my sense that she was decidedly interesting. Undertaking Postgraduate studies in the philosophy of history and the history of philosophy at the LSE in the late 1970s I came across Michael Oakeshott, who personified the Socratic impulse to ask questions, informed by much learning, but which leave matters open for all to join in the conversation. I learnt later that at this time Oakeshott was connected to Iris Murdoch, writing to her and occasionally seeing her.  I completed a thesis on Plato and Hegel and my reading of Plato was influenced by Murdoch's sense of him as an artist searching for rather than disclosing the truth.. A friend of mine, who was trying to decide how much his religion meant to him, read Murdoch and talked to me of seeing her Platonic Dialogues enacted at the National Theatre. Recently I helped stage Art and Eros, one of these dialogues. 

Later I moved to Oxford and taught at Oxford Brookes University, and throughout my time in Oxford I have come across people who knew her. I know her dentist, who was charmed by her ramshackle way of getting around the city. I was a friend of one of the professional staff at St. Catherine's College, who talked of Murdoch's late senility, whereby she would sit for hours watching  the Teletubbies.. All the time I was reading more of Murdoch, while it was becoming clear to me that my son was seriously ill. Murdoch was an escape and a witness to my anxiety and suffering,.as I thought long and hard about the nature of things. I came across one of her friends whom she would meet occasionally, and posing questions such as, 'And what do you believe in? Which religious beliefs do you hold? i also bought a house in Dorset and  visited Litton Cheney from time to time, where I would meet an old woman near the Old Reynolds and Jane Stone used to live and where Iris and John Bayley would visit. The woman told me how Iris and Janet would dress up in lively and odd fashion.

Gradually I turned to reading Murdoch more closely and attending Murdoch Conferences and I completed books on Hegel, Lyotard, Collingwood and themes such as the History of Political Thought and Global Theory while reading Heidegger, Kant and Marx.  I was getting closer to Iris Murdoch without simply focusing on her works though by the early 2000s I had read most of her published work. I would go on to read much in the Iris Murdoch Archive and complete a monograph on how the various sides of her work fit together, It seems to me that the various sides of my own work and identity fit with hers.

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