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Title: 'A certain detachment' : Muriel Spark's experiments with form
Author: Bailey, James
ISNI:       0000 0004 7655 2741
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2018
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Concentrating on an early period in her fiction-writing career (1953-73), this thesis offers a reassessment of the fiction and critical reception of Muriel Spark. It presents her characteristically concise and meticulously plotted texts as less neatly contained and narrowly didactic than is often alleged to be the case, focusing instead on their deceptively expansive and more equivocal qualities: specific attention is paid to aspects of generic liminality, self-reflexivity, and formal and stylistic experimentation. By taking this approach, I examine how Spark combines a degree of postmodern narrative 'play' with a realist approach to character construction and a serious moralpolitical vision, in a manner that collapses any sense of opposition between either possibility. It was by drawing upon a range of innovative and self-reflexive narrative strategies that Spark was able to facilitate moments of subversive satire and gendered social critique, while articulating concerns unique to the contemporary world. An introductory chapter situates my study within the context of work previously undertaken on Spark, challenging the enduring and narrowly-defined 'myth' of the author as a Catholic comic writer whose literary experiments are reducible to a cruel and capricious god-game involving an almighty, omniscient narrator and an ensemble of thinly-drawn caricatures. The chapters that follow examine the alternatives to omniscience explored by Spark, and the rhetorical function of her various narrative experiments. Beginning with an analysis of her self-reflexive ghost stories, I proceed to examine Spark's metafictional approach to matters of gender, identity and free will. A third chapter traces the evolving relationship between Spark's fiction and the style and ethos of the nouveau roman, examining how the theories and aesthetics of the 'anti-novel' came to refine the author's satirical and sociopolitical focus. The final chapter explores her fiction's nuanced and highly subversive interrogation of the relationship between epistemological control and narrative perspective.
Supervisor: Piette, Adam ; Vice, Sue Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available