Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis


English Language and Literatures



First Advisor

Cohen, Debra Rae


Iris Murdoch's contention with narrative form, established in her essays and fiction, forms an ethics of activism that seeks to affirm the irreducibility of human difference against the violently reductionist tendencies of narrative form. Murdoch's call for an ethically responsible aesthetics of representation is grounded in her development of 'contingency' and 'attention,' two concepts that work against what she sees is the 'tight metaphysical' and 'crystalline' form of traditional narrative. This project uses Murdoch's contentions with narrative form as an organizational and interpretive heuristic to investigate the resistance to form and formal closure in the novels of Virginia Woolf and Jean Rhys. Murdoch's configuration of resistance to narrative form provides a grammatical and lexical framework for uncovering and foregrounding the specifically ethical investments Woolf and Rhys have in resisting narrative closure. This project deploys the narratological theory of Mikhail Bakhtin and D.A. Miller to define narrative closure and the Murdochian heuristic, namely, constructing a narrative perspective that engenders and deploys the concepts of attention and contingency to repeatedly encounter and resist the designs of narrative form, to define the resistance to narrative form.