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Lecture II - Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961)

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Matthew McGuire

on 21 October 2013

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Transcript of Lecture II - Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961)

Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961)
lecture II

- fence betw sexes; hats; curriculum; Bible "where shall I find a virtuous woman..."

- a good teacher...?
- teacher -pupil relationship
- Miss Brodie vs Mrs Mackay
- love affairs (Teddy Lloyd - art master
Gordon Lowther - singing master)
- loyalty & betrayal

Postmodern metafiction

- What is fiction?
- What is reality?

"In providing a critique of
their own methods of
construction, such writings
not only examine the fundamental structures of narrative fiction, they also
explore the possible fictionality of the world outside the literary [...] text
. "(p2)

Education & fascism or... education as fascism
Today's lecture...

1. Character - Sandy
2. Narrative Structure
3. A religious reading...?
4. A feminist reading...?

Close reading + secondary criticism;
biographical elements + own opinion

2. Narrative structure

- flash forwards; prolepsis
- eg Mary McGregor's death (p15)
- eg someone betrays JB (p27)
- eg Sandy is the betrayer (p60)
- eg Sandy ends up as a nun in a convent

- METAFICTION - fiction vs reality (which has strict
chronological order A-B-C-D....)
- Book manipulating our perception of reality
cf Jean Brodie and her attempts to control the
destinies of her girls
Secondary Crticism

- Anne L. Bower, 'The Narrative Structure of Muriel
Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" (through VUWS)

- "While there are a few brief flashbacks... it is the use of
that distort the forward motion of time or disrupt the reader's sense of the novel's 'reality'." (488)
- goes through each of the 11
include Miss Brodies lover Hugh and Sandy's constant daydreaming

"I do not think enough attention has yet been given to Spark's technique, a technique which economically allows her to show how an individual is formed by a unique combination of internal and external forces. Neither the individual nor those around her will necessarily understand all these forces or their relative value..." p489

1. Sandy Stranger

- Sandy's eyes
'notorious for her small, almost non-existent eyes...' (p7); 'pig like eyes..' (p61); 'short sighted... the way you peer at people...' (p107)
Q - what does Sandy see that convinces her Miss Brodie must be stopped...?

- - P71 "...making patterns with facts..."

- Famous Psychological Treatise - The Transfiguration of the Commonplace

- Sandy ends up retreating from the material world by joining a nunnery and becoming Sister Helena of the Transfiguration

- Is she the most like Miss Brodie of all the girls?

"the jump forwards and backwards in time... constantly check any inclination we may have to 'lose ourselves' in the story or to sink into emotional identification with any of the characters;
it detaches us
from the experience presented and makes us think about its meaning, or meanings."
- David Lodge, qtd in Bower, p489.


Berthold Brecht (German playwrite)
3. A Religious reading...?

- Sandy as Sister Helena
- Narr structure / Religious
-Sandy on p108 - notion of Calvinism
- "She thinks she is Providence , thought Sandy, she thinks she is the God of Calvin, she sees the beginning and the end." (p120)


Gerard Carruthers, 'Muriel Spark as Catholic Novelist.'

- contemporary lit studies preoccupied with Q about gender, class, race... little time for religion, ethics etc

- JB's defeat as a Catholic critique of Calvinist belief in predestination

- Sandy's action challenge idea that history is already written

- Catholic view - Salvation = belief in God + good deeds on earth
4. A feminist reading...?

- Miss Brodie as a feminist icon...?

- Mina Loy; women in the 1930s

- defying a patriarchal society

- other women in the book...?
Full transcript