A Word Child (Vintage Classics) by Iris Murdoch

By Iris Murdoch

Kept from a antisocial early life by way of schooling, cheated out of Oxford through a sad love tangle, Hilary Burde cherishes his obsessive guilt and ekes out a residing in a lifeless civil provider activity.

When the fellow whom he has harmed and betrayed reappears as head of his division, Hilary hopes for forgiveness, even for redemption and a brand new existence, yet reveals himself haunted through a ghostly repetition.

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Extra resources for A Word Child (Vintage Classics)

Sample text

You have nothing to do with it . . You don’t walk upon flowers in fact; you cannot be allowed to walk upon flowers in carpets . . You must use . . combinations and modifications (in primary colours) of mathematical figures which are susceptible of proof and demonstration. (Dickens, Hard Times, pp. 5–6) This prohibition of figurative expression suggests how thoroughly this world has been rationalized in order to subject all language to the proof of ‘‘verifiability’’ and the ‘‘plausible’’ that Benjamin describes as anathema to storytelling.

As domestic ideology exerted a stronger influence after the 1830s and 1840s, the Carlylean sage figure could seem excessively authoritative, his power too openly brandished; a female speaker might generate comparable effects without making as blatant a show of force. Notwithstanding important differences between the male or female storyteller in particular instances, both do the same work of purifying a print culture perceived to have become corrupt and mechanized. Part of the strength and resilience of the ideology or myth of the storyteller, indeed, lies in its flexibility in regards to gender.

And this voice must be heard, cannot be ignored: ‘‘To which voice, in several respects significant enough, let good ear be given’’ (‘‘Corn-Law Rhymes,’’ p. ’’ (‘‘Corn-Law Rhymes,’’ p. 26 Carlyle’s dream of the death of the oral voice and the return of sovereign speech reverberates through Victorian fiction. It becomes the novel’s task to present the death of the speaker as a resurrection in print. By reincarnating the charismatic speaker as the author, the novel promises to reconstitute a society of dispersed and isolated readers as a community on the order of an 24 Voice and the Victorian storyteller earlier organic speech community.

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