Donna Carpenter

Current location

University of Chichester, College Lane, Chichester, West Sussex, South East, England, PO19 6PE, United Kingdom

Interest (Researcher)

Iris Murdoch


Donna has just completed her undergraduate degree at Chichester University. She is about to commence a secondary school teacher training course, after which she plans to embark on an MA. Donna’s interest in Murdoch is mainly literary, although she’s of late been thinking about how some of her philosophy might illuminate some features of her novels. 

Her interest in Murdoch comes in two fronts. First, in relation to her future teaching career. Donna will be teaching 11-16 year olds, and she believes that Murdoch’s novels, in all their current relevance, have more to teach students than some of the set books they’re expected to read. Second, in relation to her own research. Murdoch’s use of colour in her novels has caught Donna’s eye. She’s noticed two peculiarities in Murdoch’s use of colour. 

One is her idiosyncratic use of specific colours (fuchsia when depicting Ireland, gold and blue in the midst of fairy tale themes). The other is Murdoch’s variation in the use to which she put the same colours. Although using the same colour to mean different things in different contexts is not uncommon amongst authors, the extent to which Murdoch does it is. This intrigues Donna. She thinks it must have been purposeful, and is curious to find out what that purpose might have been. 

A nascent hypothesis she’s currently entertaining is that Murdoch refrains to use the same colour concept to mean the same thing on the basis on her view that art cannot be imitative. Donna is hopeful that themes in Murdoch’s philosophy of language might also throw some light into this issue. 

Aside from those specific areas of interest, and more generally, Donna’s approach to literature has changed since she read her first Murdoch novel, The Bell, a couple of years ago. Before, she thought that the story novels told sat on the surface of the text, but The Bell made her realise that there is a multiplicity of stories being told at different levels of meaning in the text.

This excited in her a desire to read them all, to understand them all, and to have them help her understand everything else. Since then, Donna’s approach to texts - not just by Murdoch, and not just to fiction, but more broadly - is more careful, more attentive, more searching for what’s going on below the surface. One could perhaps put it that Murdoch’s novels opened Donna’s eyes to the relation between fiction, life, and our understanding of it. Quite a debt. 

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