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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: 04 August 2021

The Art of Death

The Art of Death

(p.199) Chapter 7 The Art of Death
Muriel Spark, Existentialism and The Art of Death

Cairns Craig

Edinburgh University Press

Death in a novel has no finality: go back to the beginning and all the characters are still there, replaying the same life. For Kierkegaard, this was also the implication of Hegel’s philosophy: individual deaths were of no significance because they were subsumed into the narrative of history. Kierkegaard rebelled against such an aestheticisation of death: a role in history is no compensation for the personal finality of death. For Spark, art cannot represent death because it cannot encompass that finality (an irony played out at the conclusion of The Driver’s Seat). Art is a pseudo-eternity which negates death by its power of repetition but also thereby fails to offer the salvation that Kierkegaard sought in religion. Many Spark novels self-reflexively explore this tension, most potently Not To Disturb, in which the reality of death is continually postponed by its transformation into the apparently timeless repeatability of a wide variety of artforms. Death is defeated by art but only at the cost of invoking what Hegel had prophesied and Arthur Danto identifies as ‘the death of art’, which comes about when art ceases to be the expression of a shared religious belief.

Keywords:   Kierkegaard, Hegel, Danto, the death of art

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