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Authorship, Language and Textual Pathology

Linguistic Changes in Iris Murdoch’s Informal Writings

Prof. Peter Garrard

Monday 20 April 2020, 5.30pm in Cloisters, Bishop Otter Campus. Free and open to all.

Iris Murdoch’s profound and well-documented late life cognitive decline was caused by the accumulation of amyloid plaques and tau tangles in her brain: the molecular signature of Alzheimer’s disease. Yet plaque and tangle deposition begins many years, if not decades, before cognitive changes first emerge, so the discovery of methods for defining and measuring this ‘preclinical’ phase is one of the central challenges in Alzheimer’s disease research. Language change is regarded as a leading contender for the status of preclinical marker, with deep and detailed linguistic analysis now performed on speech and language samples from thousands of patients and controls. One of the earliest pieces of work relevant to this objective was the textual analysis that Professor Garrard and his colleagues in the University of Cambridge carried out on Murdoch’s final novel, Jackson’s Dilemma, which she wrote right at the end of the preclinical phase. Jackson’s Dilemma showed changes similar to those found in the language of patients with established disease. After reviewing this work and the subsequent experiments it inspired, Professor Garrard will introduce the new generation of computationally based techniques in corpus linguistics by presenting some more recent work on longitudinal changes in Murdoch’s informal writings (diaries and letters), which he has examined in a fine-grained manner using a machine-learning approach.

Iris Murdoch Summer School: Iris Murdoch and London

Monday 15th – Thursday 18th June 2020

Bishop Otter Campus, University of Chichester

What’s included?

We will be studying The Nice and the Good, A Fairly Honourable Defeat, A Word Child and The Green Knight. Full tuition including lectures and seminars on all the novels taught, and optional 1:1 supervisions as required.

Teaching staff are:

Dr Miles Leeson, Director of the Iris Murdoch Research Centre at Chichester and author of Iris Murdoch: Philosophical Novelist and editor of Iris Murdoch: A Centenary Celebration.

Dr Frances White, Deputy Director and author of Becoming Iris Murdoch.

We are also delighted to announce Prof. Anne Rowe as our guest lecturer on The Green Knight.

Also included:

  • Welcome refreshments every morning, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner every day – on the final evening (Wednesday) dinner is at a restaurant in town (included in price). All other meals on campus.
  • A literary tour of the city of Chichester with a professional guide.
  • A boat tour of Chichester Harbour - guide and transport provided.
  • Conference support team.

No prior knowledge required – all we ask is that you read the books, and the supplementary material we will send to you via email in advance. This is for the general reader, or those with a good knowledge of Murdoch’s works already.


£350 per person (IM Society Price - this is just £10 student, £20 UK, or £25 worldwide per year)

£400 (all others)


If you require accommodation on site the cost is £45 per person per night in a single ensuite room and includes breakfast (English or Continental). To book please email:

For further details, and to book, please email

Places are very limited to make sure this is an enjoyable experience for all.


The Iris Murdoch Research Centre organises a variety of events each year focusing on Iris Murdoch, her milieu, and related academic areas at University of Chichester.

It also supports events connected to Murdoch both nationally and internationally. For the latest information on forthcoming events please follow the hyperlinks on the 'Links' page, or email: