Uncategorized | February 22, 2005

Writer’s block? Can’t find the right word? Are you suddenly unsure of who you are and what you’re doing here? Well, if that’s the case it may be too late to help you, but the manuscripts of the late Dame Iris Murdoch may turn out to hold valuable clues in the search for a cure to Alzheimer’s disease.

Eurekalert recently reported that scientists at the University College London and Medical Research Council’s Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit recently announced the results of their work with Murdock’s first, middle and final manuscripts (Under the Net; The Sea, The Sea; and Jackson’s Dilemma). Computer analysis reveals that variations in Murdoch’s vocabulary and word usage peaked mid-career and suffered a decline in the years leading up to the publication of her final novel and subsequent diagnosis with Alzheimer’s.

While these findings dramatically heighten “the possibility of enhancing cognitive tests used to diagnose the disease,” they may also help to explain the ugly critical reception of Jackson’s Dilemma – a novel described by A.S. Byatt as yielding characters with “no selves and therefore there is no story and no novel” and by Hugo Barnacle as reading “like the work of a 13 year-old schoolgirl who doesn’t get out enough.”