Iris Murdoch on Storytelling, Why Art Is Essential for Democracy, and the Key to Good Writing
“A good society contains many different artists doing many different things. A bad society coerces artists because it knows that they can reveal all kinds of truths.”
BY MARIA POPOVA
“Storytelling is a tool for knowing who we are and what we want.” Ursula K. Le Guin
philosopher and novelist Iris Murdoch (July 15, 1919–February 8, 1999) — one of the most lucid and luminous minds of the twentieth century — explored in a long, deep, immensely insightful 1977 conversation with the British broadcaster and philosopher Bryan McGee, which aired on McGee’s television series Men of Ideas.
Existentialists and Mystics: Writings on Philosophy and Literature (public library).
the fundamental difference between the function of philosophy and that of art — one being to clarify and concretize, the other to mystify and expand.
A century after Nietzsche examined the power of language to both conceal and reveal truth, and several years before Oliver Sacks’s trailblazing insight into narrative as the pillar of identity, Murdoch considers how we, as storytelling creatures, use language in the parallel arts of literature and living
Hemingway’s admonition against the dangers of ego in creative work. distinguish a recognisable style from a personal presence.
bridging William James’s landmark assertion that “a purely disembodied human emotion is a nonentity” and Tolstoy’s insistence that “emotional infectiousness” is what separates good art from the bad
There is always more bad art around than good art, and more people like bad art than like good art.
James Baldwin wielded the double-edged sword of the artist’s duty to society, Murdoch insists on this largeness: The artist’s duty is to art, to truth-telling in his own medium, the writer’s duty is to produce the best literary work of which he is capable, and he must find out how this can be done.
In consonance with John F. Kennedy’s exhortation to a propaganda-smothered society — “We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth.”
(My note: Lenin – Art is always political. He did not distinguish art and propaganda. http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1924-2/socialist-cinema/socialist-cinema-texts/lenin-on-the-most-important-of-the-arts/)
after the teenage Sylvia Plath precociously observed that “once a poem is made available to the public, the right of interpretation belongs to the reader,”Murdoch examines the laboratory for reflection and interpretation
My note: on Sylvia Plath, see Elif Shafak’s Black Milk: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9923549-black-milk
Susan Sontag’s beautiful wisdom on storytelling and what it means to be a moral human being, Murdoch weighs the relationship between morality and truth, as mediated by language
Rebecca West on storytelling as a survival mechanism,
more on storytelling in this IMS blog