Archive for January, 2018

The element of truth in confessional poetry – Blog Post by Hannah Mitchell

The likes of Anne Sexton, Sharon Olds and Sylvia Plath broke the traditional mould of poetry and started to write poetry which represented realistic events in their lives.

However, with their confessions in their poetry came the backlash of people delving into the truth behind their stories. Critics started to argue to what extent their poetry was representative of their lives and also the brutality of some of their stories, therefore questioning their morals and ethics. Sylvia Plaths work has been criticised as being ‘over-indulgent’ and a form of ‘revenge fantasy’ against certain events that happened in her life, involving attempted suicide. Confessional poetry is from the perspective of the poet and rarely involves the emotional and physical aspects from the other side.

However, it has been argued that confessional poetry does have an element of truth that has been broadened and exaggerated to an extent through imagery and creativity. As confessional poetry has been described as being true/realistic facts of the poet’s lives, it undermines the ‘creative ability’ of the poets as readers assume it to simply be facts. However, to write about ‘hidden/repressed/falsified’ topics is extremely brave and influential to literature and to portray the truth around controversial topics such as racism/incest/abuse in a creative form is very talented.

Iris Murdoch Under the Net: Blog Post by Carmen Luis


Iris Murdoch’s first novel, Under the Net, is deemed to be one of her least successful literary works due to its male-centric narrative, amorphous plot and dialogue which is at times somewhat imprecise. Despite these critical responses to her novel, Murdoch raises quite a few key issues concerning writing, philosophy and politics throughout the novel. Murdoch’s novel shares various philosophical ideas brought forth by one of the most infamous philosophers of the twentieth century’s, Ludwig Wittgenstein. He suggested the notion language is a social construct in which people do not distance themselves from the norm. Regularity of the use of such concepts and agreement in their application is part of language, not a logically necessary precondition of it, consequently one cannot separate themselves from the language they have been accustomed to.


Under the Net suggests that we are “trapped in a net of language” in which one’s emotions and experiences are unable to be fully expressed due to the limitations of language, however individuals still aim to express themselves through speech and writing in an attempt to free themselves from this structured system. This notion is underlined through the statement “The whole language is a machine for making falsehoods,” as a result may not fully convey the reality as it has been corrupted by their own perspective, thus making this ‘truth’ subjective rather than objective. Murdoch highlights this struggle through Jake and Hugo’s relationship. Jake ends up leaving Hugo once he realises that he could have possibly jeopardised their friendship as he taints Hugo’s experiences by writing about them and ultimately publishing a novel based on these personal experiences. Murdoch concludes her novel by proposing the idea that “One must just blunder on. Truth lies on blundering on.” This attitude towards life is necessary in order to avoid falsifying emotions and ideas in writing.



Iris Murdoch’s Under the Net in a Harvey Weinstein-world Blog Post by Amber Millar

Harvey Weinstein, a world-renowned film director and co-founder of the Weinstein Group, was accused of sexual assault, harassment and rape by more than 50 actresses during 2017. The disproportionate power dynamic of Weinstein’s relationships and interactions with these actresses allowed him to continue assaulting women for decades before public recognition of his crimes. Weinstein’s actions are representative of an insidious problem in the world of film-making and the abuses of power of those in charge of making and directing art.

Iris Murdoch addresses similar concerns in her novel Under the Net. Whilst, on the surface, the novel is concerned with a lazy but loveable picaro protagonist Jake and his adventures across London and Paris, Murdoch addresses the inappropriate behaviour of the male characters towards the women they engage with. Jake’s first encounter in the novel with Anna, an old girlfriend, starts with a non-consensual kiss and embrace. The language used to describe this experience describes Anna with ‘eyes wide with alarm’ and ‘laying stiffly in my arms like a great doll’. This encounter with Anna begins his obsession with her, eventually following her to Paris to try to win her over. This kind of relationship is often presented to a contemporary audience as ‘romantic’, instead of unhealthy and toxic but Murdoch insinuates the harsh reality of the situation through her language.

Hugo, the owner of a film studio, is also shown to demonstrate entitled sexual behaviour towards the women in the novel. Sadie, an actress and the sister of Anna, repeatedly receives phone calls and harassment from her ‘admirer’ Hugo. This presentation of unwanted sexual advances from a film director to his actress ring almost painfully relevant from a contemporary view. Whilst showing these inappropriate encounters between artists and their muses, Murdoch allows the reader to understand the deep-rooted tradition of abuse, not only in Hollywood, but by men throughout history, in ways and in situations that we are expected to believe are acceptable.