Avuncular ambiguity: Ethical virtue in Iris Murdoch's The Black Prince (1973) and Simone de Beauvoir's The Mandarins (1954)

Leeson, M. (2018) Avuncular ambiguity: Ethical virtue in Iris Murdoch's The Black Prince (1973) and Simone de Beauvoir's The Mandarins (1954). In: Incest in Contemporary Literature. Manchester University Press, Manchester. ISBN 9781526122162

Full text not available from this repository.


This essay will be twofold. Firstly an examination of the narrative place of incest within both Murdoch’s and de Beauvoir’s work and questioning the role of the ephebophilic attitudes of the central male characters to the younger, less experienced Julian Baffin (The Black Prince, 1973) and Nadine Dubreuilh (The Mandarins, 1954). Both of these texts are informed by philosophical idea of the virtuous and it seems clear that Murdoch takes much from de Beauvoir’s earlier novel (indeed in her letters to Raymond Queneau she is keen to meet the woman who has written such inspiring works of ‘persistent seriousness’). Although both texts take different inspirations– Murdoch from Shakespeare and de Beauvoir from her tumultuous relationship with Sartre – there are clear parallels running throughout and it is the focus of this essay to, secondly, explore both of the authors philosophical relationships with the virtuous and how this is related from their philosophical writings to ideas of ephebophilic incest within, arguably, their most important works.

Regarding de Beauvoir it is pertinent to ask if her commitment to existentialism clouds her judgement when producing The Mandarins: does she, as Murdoch argues in her essay “Against Dryness”, limit the approach of the narrative in order to create a tightly-structured philosophical novel? The structure of Murdoch’s work is far more relaxed and this is clearly seen in the style that Murdoch presents us with the sexual relations of the characters whereas de Beauvoir’s work aims to bring the reader to a better understanding of the underlying existentialist position. Is love debased by both Murdoch and de Beauvoir via the taboo of incest to heighten the eventual outcomes of the respective novels or does it form a signifying position that point us toward a new moral reality that developed after the Second World War?
Little work has been produced relating these two authors to the other and a reassessment of their work both timely and necessary.

Publication Type: Book Sections
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
Divisions: Academic Areas > Institute of Arts and Humanities > English and Creative Writing
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Miles Leeson
Date Deposited: 06 Sep 2016 10:50
Last Modified: 07 Oct 2021 08:22
URI: https://eprints.chi.ac.uk/id/eprint/1944

Actions (login required)

View Item
View Item
▲ Top

Our address

I’m looking for