It is scarcely surprising that a major novelist who wrote twenty-six novels over a span of forty years did not always win critical approval and Iris Murdoch’s reputation has certainly seesawed since the publication of her first novel in 1954. By that time she had already made her mark as a philosopher, offering papers at learned societies, giving talks on the BBC Third Programme and writing reviews. In writing Under the Net she was merely extending her activities and making a different use of her work in philosophy. One problem is that she defies classification: she was not a Modernist; she was not a Post-Modernist; she was not, like many of her female contemporaries, a feminist writer; yet, despite the fact that she employed many Victorian devices in her novels, no serious reader of her fiction could place her among the traditionalists. She was a thinker, a novelist of ideas, a philosopher who dared to introduce philosophic discussion into her novels; at the same time she was a myth-maker, a weaver of stories, interested in patterns, interested in form, interested in language, interested above all in establishing a raison d’être for truth, goodness and love in a world that has dispensed with God.
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Hilda D. Spear
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