A Love That Points: The Teleologies of Evelyn Waugh and Iris Murdoch
Otis, Harrison Charles
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Both Evelyn Waugh and Iris Murdoch use their novels to work out the ways in which metaphysical ends undergird and direct the world of lived experience. In other words, both authors are consistently teleological, though they disagree wildly on what (or who) the ultimate teleological good actually is. I have chosen to examine Waugh’s and Murdoch’s teleologies in light of the nature of love, which functions for both authors as a virtue and as a teleological engine. In my first chapter I treat the relationship between love and sex in Murdoch’s The Black Prince and Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, considering Murdoch and Waugh as exemplars of Platonic and Dantean eroticism, respectively. In my second chapter I treat the relationship between love and art in Waugh’s The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold and Murdoch’s A Fairly Honourable Defeat, where Murdoch reflects a Platonic conception of creation and Waugh an Augustinian one. In my final chapter I treat the relationship between love and service in Murdoch’s Bruno’s Dream and Waugh’s Sword of Honour, arguing that Murdoch exemplifies Simone Weil’s understanding of the human self and will, whereas Waugh exemplifies Augustine’s understanding of the same. For Murdoch, I argue, sex and art are teleologically split: that is, they are each by nature at least partially inimical to virtue, and thus must remain imperfect if they are to direct the soul toward the Good. Likewise, the efficacy of service depends on a recognition of the imperfection of the self and its subsequent destruction. For Waugh, on the other hand, sex and art are each by nature good; though that goodness becomes demonic when wrenched from its proper context, it nonetheless continues to point toward God, a lesser and distorted reflection of a greater light. Similarly, service requires not the destruction of the self but rather an affirmation of the self and its particular vocation toward God and others. In all this, Murdoch’s Good gives her a teleology that is markedly impersonal and distrustful of the self, whereas Waugh’s God gives him a teleology that is markedly personal and affirmative of the self.