An Unofficial Rose by Iris Murdoch

By Iris Murdoch

 A robust novel of a family’s look for love amid the wreckage of failed relationships An Unofficial Rose is a narrative of a father and son, either disappointed with their lives, and either in love with anyone except their better halves. whereas the daddy, a widower, regrets by no means leaving his spouse for his mistress, the son seeks any chance to flee his uninteresting marriage. Written with Murdoch’s masterful mixture of comedy and tragedy, An Unofficial Rose is a compelling tale of affection, remorse, and the complexity of human relationships.

 

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Because the human activity of literary criticism is limited – finite in what it may examine and report – no critic may write about all of the elements of a given work: the aesthetic, the social, the psychological, the structural, the philosophical, and so on. But that does not mean the critic has not taken into consideration such formal concerns in the selection of the text or in the reading of that text. Like Burke or Frye, the critic wears scholarly lenses that cause certain elements of a literary work to rise from the page, similar to the shift that occurs when one views an image with 3D glasses.

The whole story is the meaning,’ Flannery O’Connor declares, ‘because it is an experience, not an abstraction’ (Mystery and Manners 73), and the experiences that formalist critics doggedly seek after tend to be those that carry the reader toward a contemplation of human struggles and triumphs, emotional toil and joy. The limits of formalism: Universalism, eclecticism, and morality in the work of F. R. Leavis and Kenneth Burke In Literary Criticism: A Short History (1978), Brooks and Wimsatt describe the distinction between art and science and the bridge criticism and poetry may offer in negotiating this chasm of difference: We can have our universals in the full conceptualized discourse of science and philosophy.

Whether these barriers be personal experience – a new critical problem that both poets and critics of this movement attempted to squash in their allegiance to a poetics of impersonality – or the ‘stock responses’ provided by our culture at large, Richards’s observations seem to point toward a disengagement of the student with his or her personal experience, as well as the oppressive theoretical baggage, of which the student likely is ignorant. ’ 24 A Critical Introduction Most literary historians point to the publication of William Empson’s Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930) as a fundamental shift in literary criticism.

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