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The denial of the self: the romantic imagination and the problem of belief in Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961)

McIlroy, Colin William (2001) The denial of the self: the romantic imagination and the problem of belief in Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961). MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This thesis investigates the treatment, form and function of Romanticism and the Romantic imagination in Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961). Critical engagement with the work of Spark has marginalised Romanticism as an important influence on The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and this study seeks to develop new critical perspectives which emphasise the centrality of the hitherto overlooked Romantic imagination in Spark’s novel. Recent recognition of Child Of Light (1951) – Spark’s study of Mary Shelley – as an important piece of Romantic criticism provides the catalyst for enquiry into Spark’s treatment of the Romantic in Jean Brodie. By undertaking a comparative reading of Jean Brodie and Frankenstein, while referencing Spark’s criticism in Child Of Light, this study will contend that although Spark’s novel can be placed within the Scottish literary trajectory identified by G. Gregory Smith as the ‘Caledonian anti-syzygy’ (1919), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie owes an equal debt to Shelley’s Frankenstein specifically, and Romantic literature and art in general. Spark’s treatment of the solipsism that evolves from Romanticism’s emphasis on the self is considered alongside John Henry Newman’s assertion of the beneficial conflict between authority and private judgement, as outlined by Benilde Montgomery (1997). The portrayal of the various Romantic artists who populate The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and their exemption from dominant moral codes, are considered within the context of Romanticism’s aesthetic, secular and sacred modes of transfiguration. Spark’s narrative techniques are scrutinised within the triangulation of postmodernism, religion, and Romanticism, in order to illuminate the engagement with the Romantic imagination in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > Scottish Literature
Supervisor's Name: Carruthers, Professor Gerard
Date of Award: 2001
Depositing User: Mr Colin W McIlroy
Unique ID: glathesis:2001-2918
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 24 Oct 2011
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 14:01
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/2918

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