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Muriel Spark, Existentialism and The Art of Death$
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Cairns Craig

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781474447201

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474447201.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 05 August 2021

The Geopolitics of the Personal

The Geopolitics of the Personal

(p.161) Chapter 6 The Geopolitics of the Personal
Muriel Spark, Existentialism and The Art of Death

Cairns Craig

Edinburgh University Press

Christian existentialist philosophers, such as Gabriel Marcel, argued for a conception of the human individual not as an isolated subjectivity, as in Descartes’ cogito, but as born into and shaped by its relationships with others. ‘Being’ is necessarily ‘being with’. Spark’s plots dramatise, in characters such as Jean Brodie, the dangers of an isolating subjectivity that seeks to make the world conform to its own wishes in order to deny the fact they have been ‘thrown’ into a world they did not choose. In defiance of Sartre’s emphasis on the ability of human beings to choose their own future, Spark’s novels emphasise the historical and geographic ‘thrownness’ of her characters, their accidental arrival in situations they did not choose. These may be the geographical flashpoints of modern history, such as the Palestine of The Mandelbaum Gate, or the temporal eruption of the past into the present, as in Territorial Rights. It is this fundamental lack of control that leads Spark to insist that ridicule must be central to contemporary art, since ridicule not only challenges religious, political and ideological efforts to control events but challenges the presumptions of art itself when it seeks to shape the world.

Keywords:   subjectivity, cogito, being with, thrownness, Palestine

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