Jean Iris Murdoch (1919-1999)


1919       15 July: Born in Phibsborough, Ireland, to Irene Alice and Wills John Hughes Murdoch.


1925       Entered the Froebel Demonstration School, Roehampton.


1932       Joined Badminton School, Bristol, where she boarded until 1938.


1938       Attended university at Somerville College, Oxford, where she studied Classics. She graduated in 1942 with first-class honours.

—-         Joined the Communist Party of Great Britain, but left in 1942.


1943       January: Publication of “Midnight Hour,” Adelphi, pp.60-1.[1]

—-         July: Publication of “Rebirth of Christianity,” Adelphi, pp.134-5.[2]


1944       June: Went to work for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA).

—-         July: Publication of “Worship and Common Life,” Adelphi, pp.134-5.[3]


1946       Left the UNNRA.


1947       Began studying philosophy as a postgraduate at Newnham College, Cambridge. She was awarded the Sarah Smithson Studentship in Philosophy.


1948       Became a fellow of St. Anne’s College, Oxford, where she taught philosophy until 1963.


1950       March: Publication of “The Novelist as Metaphysician,” Listener, 43, pp.473-6; and, “The Existentialist Hero,” Listener,43, pp.523-4.

—-         April: Publication of a review of The Ethics of Ambiguity, by Simone de Beauvoir, Mind, 59, pp.127-8; and a review of The Emotions: The Outline of a Theory, by Jean-Paul Sartre, Mind,59, pp.268-71.


1951       July: Publication of “Symposium: Thinking and Language” (with A. C. Lloyd and Gilbert Ryle), Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume,25 (1), pp.25-82.


1952       Publication of “The Existential Political Myth,” Socratic Digest, 5.

—-         June: Publication of “Nostalgia for the Particular,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 52, pp.243-60.


1953       Publication of Sartre: Romantic Rationalist, (Cambridge: Bowes and Bowes).


1954       May: Publication of Under The Net, (London: Chatto and Windus). Wins the runner-up prize at the Cheltenham Literature Festival.


1955       Publication of “Philosophy and Beliefs: A Discussion between four Oxford Philosophers” (with Isaiah Berlin, Stuart Hampshire and Anthony Quinton), Twentieth Century, 157, pp.495-521.


1956       Married John Bayley, a literary critic and novelist.

—-         Publication of “Symposium: Vision and Choice in Morality” (with R. W. Hepburn), Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes, 30, pp.14-58.

—-         March: Publication of The Flight from the Enchanter: A Story of Love and Power, (London: Chatto and Windus).

—-         November: Publication of “Knowing the Void” (a review of Simone Weil’s The Notebooks), Spectator, 197, pp.613-4.

—-         December: Publication of “Let Them Philosophise” (a review of S. T. Coleridge’s Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit), Spectator.


1957       Publication of the short story “Something Special” in Winter’s Tales 3, (London: MacMillan).

—-         Publication of “Metaphysics and Ethics” in The Nature of Metaphysics, D. F. Pears (ed), (London: MacMillan), pp.99-123.

—-         February: Publication of “Important Things” (a review of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Mandarins), The Sunday Times.

—-         May: Publication of The Sandcastle, (London: Chatto and Windus); and “Hegel in Modern Dress” (a review of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness), New Statesman, 53, pp.675-6

—-         July: Publication of “Existentialist Bite” (a review of E. Knight’s Literature Considered as Philosophy: The French Example), Spectator, pp.68-9.

—-         October: Publication of “Concepts or Blood” (a review of Colin Wilson’s Religion and the Rebel), Manchester Guardian.


1958       Publication of “A Woman’s Don Delight” in The Compleat Imbiber: An Entertainment, Cyril Ray (ed), (London: Putnam), pp.193-6.

—-         Publication of “T. S. Eliot as a Moralist” in T.S. Eliot: A Symposium for His Seventieth Birthday, Neville Braybrooke (ed), (London: Rupert Hart-Davis).

—-         Publication of “A House of Theory” in Conviction, Norman Mackenzie (ed), (London: MacGibbon and Kee), pp.158-62.

—-         November: Publication of The Bell, (London: Chatto and Windus).

—-         Winter: Publication of a review of Dr Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak, The New Reasoner: A Quarterly Journal of Socialist Humanism,7, pp.140-2.[4]


1959       May: Publication of “Simone, Antoine and Anne” (a review of Simone de Beauvoir’s Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter), The Sunday Times.

—-         Autumn: Publication of “The Sublime and the Good,” Chicago Review,13 (3), pp.42-55.

—-         December: Publication of “The Sublime and the Beautiful Revisited,” Yale Review, 49, pp.247-71.


[Note: at some point in the 1960’s (possibly the late 1960’s), Murdoch and Philippa Foot supposedly had a brief affair. They communicated extensively throughout their lifetimes via letters, which are now owned by Kingston University’s Centre for Iris Murdoch Studies]


1960       Publication of “Negative Capability,” Adam International Review, pp.172-3.

—-         Spring: Publication of “Words and Ideas” (a review of Ernest Gellner’s Words and Things), The Partisan Review.


1961       January: Publication of “Against Dryness: A Polemical Sketch,” Encounter, 16 (1), pp.16-20.

—-         June: Publication of A Severed Head, (London: Chatto and Windus).


1962       June: Publication of An Unofficial Rose, (London: Chatto and Windus).

—-         September: Publication of “Mass, Might and Myth” (a review of Elias Canetti’s Crowds and Power), Spectator, pp.337-9.


1963       Began teaching one day a week in the General Studies department of the Royal College of Art.

—-         Publication of The Unicorn, (London: Chatto and Windus).

—-         The play of A Severed Head, adapted by J.B Priestley, opens in Bristol.


1964       Becomes the first woman to address the Philosophical Society at Trinity College Dublin.

—-         Publication of “The Moral Decision about Homosexuality,” Man and Society, 7, pp.3-6.

—-         March: Publication of “The Idea of Perfection,” The Yale Review,53 (3), pp.342-80.

—-         August: Publication of The Italian Girl, (London: Chatto and Windus).


1965       October: Publication of The Red and The Green, (London: Chatto and Windus).


1966       July: Publication of “The Darkness of Practical Reason” (review of Stuart Hampshire’s The Freedom of the Individual), Encounter, pp.46-9.

—-         September: Publication of The Time of the Angels, (London: Chatto and Windus).


1967       The play of The Italian Girl, adapted by James Saunders, opens in Bristol.

—-         September: Publication of “Political Morality,” Listener, pp.353-4.


1968       January: Publication of The Nice and the Good, (London: Chatto and Windus).


1969       January: Publication of Bruno’s Dream, (London: Chatto and Windus).


1970       January: Publication of A Fairly Honourable Defeat, (London: Chatto and Windus).

—-         Publication of The Sovereignty of Good, (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul).

—-         Publication of “Existentialists and Mystics” in Essays and Poems Presented to Lord David Cecil, (London: Constable).

—-         A Severed Head is released as a film.


1971       October: Publication of An Accidental Man, (London: Chatto and Windus).


1972       The play, The Three Arrows, opens in Cambridge, starring Sir Ian McKellan.

—-         June: Publication of “Salvation by Words,” New York Review of Books.

1973       February: Publication of The Black Prince, (London: Chatto and Windus). Winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

—-         Publication of The Three Arrows & The Servants and the Snow, (London: Chatto and Windus).


1974       March: Publication of The Sacred and Profane Love Machine, (London: Chatto and Windus). Winner of the Whitbread Literary Award for Fiction.


1975       Publication of “Socialism and Selection” in Black Paper 1975: The Fight for Education, C. B. Cox and Rhodes Boyson (eds).

—-         April: Publication of A Word Child, (London: Chatto and Windus).


1976       Named Commander of Order of the British Empire.

—-         September: Publication of Henry and Cato, (London: Chatto and Windus).


1977       Made an Honorary Fellow of Somerville College, Oxford.

—-         July: Publication of The Fire and the Sun: Why Plato Banished the Artists, (Oxford: Clarendon Press).


1978       Publication of A Year of Birds, (Compton Press).

—-         August: Publication of The Sea, The Sea, (London: Chatto and Windus). Winner of the Booker Prize.


1980       An opera, The Servants, written by the composer William Matthias, and based on Murdoch’s play entitled The Servants in the Snow, opens at the New Theatre, Cardiff.            

—-         September: Publication of Nuns and Soldiers, (London: Chatto and Windus).


1982       The Bell is adapted for television.

—-         Made a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


1983       Awarded an honorary D. Litt by the University of Bath.

—-         April: Publication of The Philosopher’s Pupil, (London: Chatto and Windus).


1985       September: Publication of The Good Apprentice, (London: Chatto and Windus). (Nominated for a Booker Prize).


1986       Made an Honorary Fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge.

—-         Publication of Acastos: Two Platonic Dialogues, (London: Chatto and Windus).

—-         Publication of “Ethics and the Imagination,” The Irish Theological Quarterly, 52, pp.81-95.


1987       Named Dame Commander of Order of the British Empire.

—-         Her play, The One Alone, is broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

—-         September: Publication of The Book and the Brotherhood, (London: Chatto and Windus).


1989       The play of The Black Prince opens at the Aldwych Theatre, London.

—-         October: Publication of The Message to the Planet, (London: Chatto and Windus).


1990       Receives the National Arts Club Medal of Honour for Literature.


1992       October: Publication of Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals, (London: Chatto and Windus).


1993       Awarded an honorary D. Litt by the University of Cambridge.

—-         Publication of The Green Knight, (London: Chatto and Windus).


1994       Publication of Joanna, Joanna, (London: Colophon Press with Old Town Books).

—-         Awarded an honorary D. Litt by Kingston University.


1995       October: Publication of Jackson’s Dilemma, (London: Chatto and Windus).


1997       Publication of Existentialists and Mystics: Writings on Philosophy and Literature, (London: Chatto and Windus).

—-         Publication of Poems by Iris Murdoch, Yozo Moroya and Paul Hullah (eds), (Okayama: University Education Press). This is a limited edition book, with only 500 copies published.

—-         Awarded the Golden PEN by English PEN for a “Lifetime’s Distinguished Service to Literature.”


1998       Publication of “The Sovereignty of Good Over Other Concepts” in Aesthetics: The Big Questions, Carolyn Korsmeyer (ed), (Oxford: Blackwell).


1999       8 February: Died in Oxford.



Sarah Lewin (25/10/16)

[1] Official date of publication is January-March, 1943.

[2] Official date of publication is July-September, 1943.

[3] Official date of publication is July-September, 1944.

[4] Official date of publication is Winter, 1958-59.


My name is Sarah Lewin. Last year, during my final year of study for a BA in Philosophy at Durham, I was fortunate enough to begin working on the In Parenthesis project, as a Research Associate. My fundamental task was to compile comprehensive timelines for each of the women studied by the project: Mary Midgley, Philippa Foot, Elizabeth Anscombe, Iris Murdoch and Mary Warnock. These timelines aimed to chronicle all the significant life events and philosophical publications of the women, as well as any details of their interactions with one another. As straightforward as this task initially sounded, compiling the timelines proved to be much more challenging than anticipated. Each of the women were incredibly prolific, with Mary Midgley in particular producing 4-5 philosophical essays and reviews each month, from the early 1970’s, until present. The other four women had similarly staggering bibliographies to contend with, and many hours were spent consolidating this information into cohesive chronologies. Ultimately, I wanted to make the timelines as accurate as possible, and spent a great deal of time tracing each publication back to its original source, in order to ensure that all the bibliographical information presented in my work was correct. Despite being challenging, it was an absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to research these incredible women, and to gain an insight into both their personal, and academic lives. Perhaps the greatest pleasure of all was hearing that Mary Midgley herself had read my chronicle of her life and works, and was able to add a few personal details that were not available through any amount of research. This additional input from Midgley ensures that her completed timeline offers a significantly comprehensive biographical account, and I am confident that the other four timelines are similarly illuminating, and accurate. Above all, the opportunity to do my own research for the In Parenthesis project has really confirmed to me that philosophy is something I would love to continue pursuing. This year I will be returning to Durham to do an MA in philosophy, and my work on the project has undoubtedly been a great factor in the success of my application. I’ve also been very fortunate to receive a scholarship from Durham University to help cover the tuition fees, and again, I am grateful to the In Parenthesis project for putting me in such a strong position for this award.