Muriel Spark's postmodernism.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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This study explores the shifting notions of postmodernism developed through Muriel Spark’s fiction, and thereby clarifies this artist’s own postmodernism. I use Jean-François Lyotard’s definition of the notion in his The Postmodern Condition (1979), that there is no grand narrative, as my starting point, and deploy various postmodernist theories, which can illuminate Spark’s art and can in turn be illuminated by her art, in my arguments. Throughout the thesis, I focus on two of Spark’s most important themes as crucial keys to understanding her postmodernism: the theme of individual subjectivity and the theme of the interplay of life and art.
The thesis begins with the claims Spark makes for her individuality and her individual art through the voice of “I”. Chapter I considers issues about being a woman and an artist, which Spark raises around the narrator-heroine of a fictional memoir, A Far Cry from Kensington (1988). Here I present this heroine as a definition of the strength of Sparkian women who liberate themselves by practicing art. Chapter II discusses Loitering with Intent (1981), a fictional autobiography of a fictional woman novelist, alongside Spark’s own autobiography and her various biographical works. This section illustrates Spark’s notion of the “author” in relation to the “work” - and an author in control in her sense - by investigating the dynamic interplay of life and art in the form of this novel.
Chapter III analyses The Driver’s Seat (1970), the novel which most shockingly elucidates the postmodern condition according to Spark and demonstrates her postmodernist narrative strategies. Her concern with the crisis of the “subject” in the world in its postmodern phase is observed in the figure of the heroine, a woman who has tried and failed to be an author in control. I argue that Spark here theorises the notion of subject, by providing her own version of the psychoanalytical “death drive” and also represents the Lacanian real as the unfigurable with this figure. Chapter IV and Chapter V follow the developments of Spark’s discussion of the crisis of the “subject” in two of her later novels. Chapter IV concentrates on the theme of Otherness in Symposium (1990). Chapter V discusses Reality and Dreams (1996), in which Spark pursues the theme of excess and opens up the contradictions inherent in this notion to bring about a new philosophy of life by art as excess.
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