Michela Dianetti

Interested in

Iris Murdoch



I am a PhD student at the National University of Ireland, Galway. 
In my thesis I compare the narrative works of Iris Murdoch and Elsa Morante, and my principal aim is to highlight the crucial influence Simone Weil’s philosophy had on the two authors, especially Weil’s idea of affliction. Before I started my PhD at NUI Galway in 2020, I focused on Weil’s philosophy in both my BA and MA at Tor Vergata University of Rome. It is thanks to my BA thesis, as I shall explain in a moment, that I ultimately came across the works of Iris Murdoch. Back then I studied the writer and intellectual Cristina Campo, a reader and Italian translator of Weil. Through Campo and her idea of folklore, I encountered Weil’s philosophy and, thanks to Campo’s connection with Leone Traverso, the Italian translator of Rainer Maria Rilke, I discovered Rilke’s poetry. The affinity between Rilke and Weil, especially the relevance they give to a “selfless experience of things”, led me to investigate references to Rilke’s poetry in Weil’s private diaries in my MA thesis.

I studied Weil’s private diaries in the National Library of Rome, where the Morante Archive is, and this is where I came across Elsa Morante’s copies of Weil’s books. I discovered a posteriori that Elsa Morante, whose work I had read when I was younger and who lived in my city (Rome), was deeply influenced by the French philosopher, and that this influence had been underestimated by critical studies. At that time, I was also following the work of the Italian Group known as Diotima, which focuses on women philosophers, especially Weil, and thanks to the studies of Luisa Muraro I came across the work of Iris Murdoch, sadly still not well-known in Italy. As a matter of fact, I started reading Murdoch’s philosophical texts (where I found surprising references to Rilke in relation to her notion of realism) for the first time alongside Morante’s essays on literature and the role of the writer. This made it very clear to me that I was gravitating around one single topic, which now lies at the core of my current research: the idea of a realism that is connected to a selfless experience of the world, and that gains its meaning through transcendence.

The comparison I am working on for my PhD candidature is motivated by three fundamental notions: Morante and Murdoch’s ideas of realism, the mystical, and morality, which are linked together, I argue, by Weil’s ethic of obedience. Therefore, my work: a) compares the realism intended as “obedience to reality” in the novels of Morante and Murdoch; b) traces this theoretical background back to Weil’s philosophy and her consideration of suffering; and c) explores point a) and b) in order to challenge the criticisms of sentimentalism, pessimism and masochism on one hand, and misogyny on the other, levelled against all three writers. 


Galway Bay, County Galway, Connacht, Ireland

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