Dr Fiona Tomkinson—The Aesthetics of Perfection and Imperfection in Iris Murdoch’s An Accidental Man

The Aesthetics of Perfection and Imperfection in Iris Murdoch’s An Accidental Man

Dr Fiona Tomkinson (Nagoya University [from April 2017])

The paper presents Iris Murdoch’s novel An Accidental Man in terms of a dialectic between the quest for perfection in a contingent world and the acceptance of imperfection: a debate which, I shall argue, takes place in terms of aesthetics as well as of ethics. I also explore the way in which this theme is connected with references to Japan in the novel, arguing that the final position of some of the characters can be better understood in terms of the aesthetics of wabi-sabi. This is particularly the case with regard to the character of Matthew Gibson Grey, a British diplomat posted to Tokyo who had intended to retire into a Buddhist monastery in order to seek perfection in his last years, then, finding himself unworthy, returns to England, but at the end of the novel ponders returning to the Japanese monastery to spend his life sweeping up azalea leaves.

Brief Bio:

Fiona Tomkinson is Associate Professor at Nagoya University (from April 2017). She has a BA and MA in English Language and Literature from the University of Oxford, and an MA and PhD in Philosophy from Boğaziçi University. She has published articles and book chapters in the fields of literature and philosophy and is currently working on a book on Murdoch, Iris Murdoch: Intertextuality and Mimesis. She also works as a freelance translator, mainly of poetry and philosophical texts, from French, German and Turkish. She was the editor of the Yeditepe journal, Septet. Her poetic drama ‘Beowulf: A Verseplay’ was performed in the Quays Theatre, Lowry Centre, Manchester on June 3rd, 2014.

This conference is supported by JSPS Kakenhi grant number 16K02109.

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