Avuncular ambiguity
Ethical virtue in Iris Murdoch’s The Black Prince (1973) and Simone de Beauvoir’s The Mandarins (1954)
in Incest in contemporary literature
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This chapter will be twofold. Firstly an examination of the narrative place of incest within both Murdoch’s and de Beauvoir’s work and questioning the role of the ephebophilic attitudes of the central male characters to the younger, less experienced Julian Baffin (The Black Prince, 1973) and Nadine Dubreuilh (The Mandarins, 1954). Both of these texts are informed by philosophical idea of the virtuous and it seems clear that Murdoch takes much from de Beauvoir’s earlier novel. The structure of Murdoch’s work is far more relaxed and this is clearly seen in the style that Murdoch presents us with the sexual relations of the characters whereas de Beauvoir’s work aims to bring the reader to a better understanding of the underlying existentialist position. Is love debased by both Murdoch and de Beauvoir via the taboo of incest to heighten the eventual outcomes of the respective novels or does it form a signifying position that point us toward a new moral reality that developed after the Second World War?

Little work has been produced relating these two authors to the other and a reassessment of their work is both timely and necessary.

Editor: Miles Leeson


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