Home News New generation of international Iris Murdoch scholars meet to talk about author’s global legacy

New generation of international Iris Murdoch scholars meet to talk about author’s global legacy

A GROUP of international early-career scholars and PhD students writing on Iris Murdoch have met for the first time to speak about the author’s worldwide legacy.

The meeting, which featured academics from across the globe, celebrated a recent revival of interest in the writer’s work among a new generation of researchers – many of whom are not based in the UK and Ireland. It was hosted at the University of Chichester, where the official Iris Murdoch Research Centre is located and works to further increase awareness of her books and writing.

Among the attendees were speakers from Hungary, Denmark, alongside UK academics, as well as a visiting professor from China.

Anne Eggert Stevns, from Aarhus University in Denmark, is a year into her PhD on the interpretation of freedom within Murdoch’s work. She said: “It’s unusual for someone not in the UK to be studying Iris Murdoch – I think I’m the only academic in Denmark researching her work.

“But that’s slowly changing across Europe and she’s becoming a more popular philosophical figure. I’ve always been into existential philosophy and, after reading The Sovereignty of Good and The Sea, The Sea, I was hooked.”

The Iris Murdoch Research Centre, a collaborative project between Chichester and Kingston universities, studies the history behind the writer’s books to bolster the impact of her award-winning work. It emphasises national and international collaboration by hosting regular events at Chichester focusing on the writer’s milieu.

Dr Miles Leeson, director of the Research Centre, was responsible for organising the latest conference. He said: “Murdoch’s philosophical works broke new ground in reintroducing ethics as a topic for discussion within the British philosophical tradition.

“The interest in her work worldwide will continue to grow over the next decade, because she talked about interests which tackle the big questions in life: heartache, loss, love. This conference is proof that there is now an international interest in her work.”

A book celebrating the centenary of Murdoch has been edited by Dr Miles Leeson. The collection brings together friends, colleagues, fellow and past students, and those who worked with her to celebrate Iris Murdoch’s life, and mark 100-years since her birth in 1919.

PhD student Zsolt Rethy, of Budapest’s Pazmany Peter Catholic University, has spent the last few years translating Murdoch’s popular The Sovereignty of Good into Hungarian. “Murdoch’s philosophy is most exciting for me,” he said. “It’s interesting to see how she influenced more famous writers then herself.”

Speaking about being the first to translate her novels into Hungarian, Zsolt added: “It’s a challenge but rewarding. Some of her central terms where quite difficult. Murdoch is far less popular in Europe than the UK, and I’m one of three academics in Hungary engaged in her works.”

The recent conference is one of many to be hosted at the University of Chichester in recent years, where fans, academics, and fellow writers inspired by Murdoch’s texts have been invited by the Research Centre to discuss the impact of her work in the 20 years since her death.

Professor Anne Rowe, who works alongside Dr Miles Leeson, is an emeritus research fellow with the Iris Murdoch Archive at Kingston University. She said: “Murdoch’s philosophy is very interesting for the younger generation.

“Even the slightest engagement with her work is enough to convince some, and it’s a true testament to her books that they are as relevant today as they were when they were published. The challenge for us now is to keep up the momentum.”

To find out more about the Iris Murdoch Research Centre at the University of Chichester visit www.chi.ac.uk/iris.

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