Metafictional Aspects in Novels by Muriel Spark

Examination Thesis, 2002

60 Pages, Grade: 1,0 (A)


Table of Content

0 Anything Written in English is a Lie

1 Metafiction

2 What’s Spark Got to Do With It
2.1 Narrators are Licenced Liars ...
2.1.1 Overt and Hidden Fictitiousness The Comforters Loitering with Intent A Far Cry from Kensington
2.1.2 Plotting, Blackmailing and Playing God
2.2 and Obliged Ones at That: Poetic Vision
2.3 God Author and Human Characters and Readers
2.4 God, the Author, and Human Beings
2.5 Spark’s Post-Modernism
2.5.1 Religion and Faith
2.5.2 Irony and Satire: It’s not All You

3 Conclusion

4 List of Works cited and consulted

0 Anything Written in English is a Lie

Anything written in English is a lie. This is by no means a new idea, with many people having given thought and expression to it (recently and rather extensively so, for instance, Jeanette Winterson). One way to handle this sentence is to relate it to the idea that something written can never be reality. That then, though, some things written (or only fictional texts?; or even fictional texts?; or anything produced?) might have a reality of their own, and that finally these realities might be part of another, larger and encompassing reality – they might. There need not be such a larger idea beyond things. All novelists have been faced with the question of how to deal with this multilayered reality, novels that deal with it explicitly being called metafictional novels. Metafictional literature has come up with innumerable ways of handling and playing with the notion of what is being real and what fictitious.

Anything written in English is a lie. This sentence is also putting into other words the famous paradox of the Cretan stating that all Cretans are liars. For with both, as with many other paradoxes, the paradox is a result of the statement's self-reference. Since the statement is written in English, it denies its own truth, which it actually does not if it is a lie – it would stop being a lie then, though. Any attempt to solve the paradox will end in moving in circles. The only way not to go insane when trying to find a solution is to accept that the sentence is made up and that it cannot be true in terms of our familiar logic. Once we view it as artificial, as something that has been made up to be not solvable (which need not be the case), we adopt another perspective and for instance allow ourselves to be entertained by contemplating paradoxes.

Confronted with any paradoxical or otherwise inexplicable situation human beings still feel an urge to ascribe explanations and reasons to it and often turn to religion, commonplace theories or superstition to find them. Religions explain how the Earth came into existence. If we drop a cup or spill hot milk, it happened because our boss was being a strain. If we got an unjustified salary rise, the stars would have favoured us. A religious woman might regard it as God’s punishment when she falls in love with her husband’s lover. Seldom are we at a loss for an explanation which we may well believe in but which cannot be proved to be causative. Similarly, Spark has Laurence in The Comforters know that, ‘people with obsessions could usually find evidence to fit their craziest convictions’ (94). Paradoxes are paradoxes because they are inexplicable, and there is little use in turning to religion and so on in this case for an explanation. At the most, some supernatural being or god may be responsible for their existence.

Dame Muriel Spark (*1918), the focus of attention in this paper, has certainly been affected by the chances and problems connected with the fuzzy dichotomy of reality and fiction as well, and has herself added a number of answers to it. Her means of conveying that a story's reality is not to be simply taken at face value is by no means always explicit but comes in the form of a paradox, too.

Some of Spark's novels, and here especially her first one, Comforters, are clearly not subject to classical logic. Trying to completely explain how things happen and on which level of reality certain characters exist will make anyone move in circles, if so in a more complex and more entertaining way than with the paradox. Again, this circling motion results from numerous cases of self-referentiality[1], and again may be stopped only by remembering that any novel is made up and thus need not be explicable in terms of logic, meaning that, even though one's logic might not be able to provide an explanation to questions provoked by the novel, one does not have to give up one's logic since it failed 'only' when applied to something artificial. Such a sacrifice, to some extent, might still be suggested, though - as we will see soon. In spite of some overt self-references the reminder that the novel is fictitious is usually delicate, and thus just the more disturbing, for most stretches of Spark's novels fit in with our idea of what is possible and could consequently take place in our usual surroundings.

Using paradoxical narrative situations and other devices ‘that foreground the gap between art and life’ (Lodge 207), Spark sees to avoiding being called a liar through the ploy to ’disarm criticism by anticipating it’ (ibid.). One may expect there to be more to it than Spark relieving her conscience, though. Spark presents in many of her novels a whole variety of convictions that are useful for explanations (be they fascism, Satanism, or spiritualism) but favours, if any, the Roman Catholic confession – without being didactic in any way or aiming at converting anyone. It is close at hand then to draw a parallel not only between characters and human beings but likewise between author and the Christian God. In Spark’s novels, a lot is said about the role of a writer, who in a way plots a story as God plots the story of the world. Her use of certain devices, which will be shown to be metafictional devices, grants at least some, the particular amount depending on the reader and the novel, awareness that artistic plotting affects invented figures only. Therefore, I would claim with Whittaker (98) that to Spark, 'novelists are licenced liars', adding though, and obliged ones at that. I would further claim that for Spark artistic plotting is the only justified way of human plotting and that one of Spark’s aims is to warn and to encourage her readers not to take themselves and their influence on others’ lives too seriously, too important to be done without.

All said above might sound a little formal, constructed and technical. Spark's novels are highly entertaining, though. Many qualities make reading her novels a pleasure, one being Spark's refreshingly frequent use of irony and satire. The resulting entertaining balance of deep thought and light humour makes a reader break out of circles, and me write this paper. It is structured along the ideas that have been hinted at so far: metafiction; an author's licence and obligation to lie, that is to write creatively; God's plot and religion; irony and satire. The majority of evidence will be taken from the following three novels, which are all concerned with writing and publishing books: The Comforters, Loitering with Intent, A Far Cry from Kensington.[2]

1 Metafiction

Patricia Waugh’s very useful definition of metafiction runs as follows: ‘ Metafiction is a term given to fictional writing which self-consciously and systematically draws attention to its status as an artefact in order to pose questions about the relationship between fiction and reality.’ (2). There are a number of other terms that refer to texts that would be labelled metafiction according to above definition, terms which usually have a different focus in their respective definitions[3]. Here the term metafiction as defined above will be employed for its usefulness with regard to Spark’s writings. The term covers quite a variety of writings since the expressions of such a concern, as defined by Waugh, are manifold. What metafictional writings have in common is, for Waugh and many others, that they are in some way or other, but always rather explicitly concerned with authors, readers and characters, with writing, being written and reading and with the belief that ‘anything said, filmed, painted, written, sculpted, or otherwise rendered [...] is therefore necessarily a fiction, a “thing made”’ (Hynes 19). Since any text implicitly states on these constituents of the production and perception of literature, it is not always possible to judge whether a given text should be labelled metafictional or not. Every naturalistic text for instance makes the implicit statement that words are sufficient to fully capture reality. Even though any text is therefore in a way metafictional, in this paper the term shall only be applied to texts with some overt metafictional concern. There is not only a difference between implicit and explicit statements. The major difference is the one between wishing literature to be perceived as real or as artificial, made-up, invented. Thus, writers trying to be naturalistic will usually not refer to a text’s artificiality at all. They will hide the author as Wagner hid the orchestra in the pit. Other writers, who acknowledge fiction’s fictitiousness, usually prefer explicit reminders of it. Devices to articulate the artificiality of writings include self-referentiality, open addressing of and communication with the reader, and intertextuality. It is those writers who have accepted the notion that ‘although fiction need not tell lies in the sense of deliberately deceiving, and is real in that it enters organically into the mind-working of its writers and readers, it can never be other than an illusion of that which it appears to be conveying [... and that] to be human is to be make fictions’ (Hynes 33) that will make use of one or more of these strategies. According to Waugh, the following themes are among the most significantly metafictional:

a celebration of the power of the creative imagination together with an uncertainty about the validity of its representations; an extreme self-consciousness about language, literary form and the act of writing fictions; a pervasive insecurity about the relationship of fiction to reality; a parodic, playful, excessive or deceptively naïve style of writing. (2)

Waugh names, among many others, John Fowles (*1926), Donald Barthelme (1931 - 89), John Barth (*1930), and Laurence Sterne (1713 - 68) as examples of Anglo-American authors who make use of metafictional elements in their writings. Also many non-Anglo-American writers, such as Jorge Luis Borges (1899 – 1986, Argentina), Umberto Eco (*1932, Italy), and Italo Calvino (1923 – 85, Italy), whom Waugh mentions, but also Jostein Gaarder (*1952, Norway) fit well into the list. So metafiction is a phenomenon that seems to occur in particular with post-war literature. In fact, metafiction is closely connected with ways of thinking typically of that time, generally called the post-modernist period, where ‘doubt’ and ‘irony’ are central ideas. That is not to say, though, that every post-modernist literature has to be metafictional, or that metafiction did not exist earlier than World War II, as indeed the example of Laurence Sterne, ‘the grandaddy of all metafictional novels’ (Lodge 206), shows. In his The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman: with the Life of the Author he is constantly addressing the reader, justifying or explaining his choice of writing techniques. He therefore actually manages to cover very little of Tristram’s life and opinions. Furthermore, self-referentiality, the most common form of metafiction, is particularly frequent in Romantic literature. The phenomenon is then referred to as Romantic Irony. Romantic Irony is metafictional in that it explicitly draws attention to the artificiality of novels or dramas. Romantic writers and theorists, of whom the German Friedrich Schlegel (1772 - 1829) is the most prominent, use irony to undermine the neo-classical belief that words can grasp everything and that reality so becomes fully reproducible for human beings. Romantic Irony has been described as ‘die ästhetische Funktion des paradoxen Kontrastes von Universalität, Unabschließbarkeit und fragmentarischer Begrenzung’ (Nünning 469). For Romantic philosophers and writers assume the existence of some metaphysical and transcendental telos, be it religion or nature, the roof and foundation of everything, that is beyond the reach of artistic production. This telos makes neo-classical mimetic endeavours seem blasphemous with regard to whatever telos is imagined.

There has obviously been an increased interest in metafiction again after World War II. Awe of a not necessarily named something is no longer the reason for self-consciousness in fiction, though. Despite a number of similarities with Romantic ideas[4] rather the opposite is the case today: a nothing has replaced the something. Where World War I had shattered most certainties, World War II did not leave any. ‘[Der] Verlust verbindlicher Weltkonzepte [wird] durch die Hinwendung zu Metafiktion literarisch umgesetzt,’ Mecklenburg writes (23). She then refers to Waugh (16): ‘Metafictional novels [...] show [...] that what is generally taken to be ‘reality’ is also constructed and mediated in a similar fashion.’ Thereby, she actually gives two reasons for the re-introduction of metafictional ideas. When there is no norm along which an author can write, when religion and reason as well as conventional courses of life have ceased to provide a generally accepted and valued set of principles to guide one through life, there remains little to be cherished, to be criticised, to be made fun of, to be examined or to be improved. Turning to the process of writing itself as a theme, however, is not only finding a surrogate when there is nothing certain or per se real. It is turning to what may be the underlying process of all our knowledge, ideas, opinions, and impression: the process of inventive creation on the basis of chance input. Waugh writes,

Descriptions of objects [including persons] in fiction are simultaneously creations of that object. [...] Metafiction, in laying bare this function of literary conventions, draws attention to what I shall call the creation/description paradox which defines the status of all fiction. (88)

All fiction, and obviously not only fiction that marks itself as such, is made up – something one will easily admit once one thinks about it (and is not reading Anna Karenina just then). However, in alike fashion everything else may be made up. All our assumed reality may be fictional in the sense that it never reaches us unmediated and pure. It may only have come into existence through discourse, that is, since it has been described. Fact and fiction may well be not as different as they are often assumed to be. Fiction is the thing formed, the thing built (from Latin fingere) while fact is the thing made (from Latin facere), which indeed suggests that nothing, neither fact not fiction, is simply there. If there is something unmediated and pure at all is very much to be doubted – which results in an uncertainty that eventually denies the existence of a reality. All one can talk of are many realities, of aspects of reality, of levels of reality which may all be true to the same degree but about which one never can be certain. Waugh sees in this ‘shift from modernist perspectivism to post-modernist doubt’ the reason for post-modernist writers to ‘draw attention to the process of the construction of the fictive ‘world’ through writing [and no longer...] through consciousness.’ (102). It as a consequence becomes difficult to distinguish between reality and fiction. When Mecklenburg argues that one is to view ‘Fiktion und Wirklichkeit nicht [...] als Antithese [..., sondern] die eine als (konstruierbarer) Teil der anderen’ (22) she defines ‘Wirklichkeit’ as a reality encompassing numerous (constructable) literary realities. Waugh suggests to distinguish three theories of how fiction and truth relate (90): ‘First, there are the ‘falsity’ theorists, for whom fiction is clearly lies. Second, there are the ‘non-referentiality’ theorists [...] who argue that it is simply inappropriate to talk about the ‘truth’ status of literary fiction.’ Most common, though, has become a ‘collectively constructed [...] third category, suggested by John Fowles’s reference to fiction as “worlds as real as, but other than the world that is. Or was” ’. (Here Waugh equals truth and reality.) So supporters of all three theories will agree that any literary reality, that is a reality constructed within a text, is not a literal reality but is distinct from our generally assumed reality. For advocators of the last theory, however, literary reality is additionally an alternative reality. Waugh assigns Spark to this third category.

To summarise, it is those vague lines separating reality from fiction that have triggered in many authors an interest to play with them and examine them. To be coherent with its own standard of there not being any standards, metafictional writing highlights how anything is mediated; it puts into its centre of interests the process of artistic mediation; it does everything it does with a sound amount of irony.

Next to self-referentiality, or actually a subcategory of it, intertextuality is a frequently used technique to emphasise fiction’s artificiality. Intertextuality is the more or less overt reference to other works of fiction and communication with them. It includes frequent citing from other texts as well as the re-writing of texts. ‘Referenz ist nicht mehr die außerliterarische Realität, sondern der gesamte Fundus literarischer Traditionen.‘ (Sprenger 124), which indicates the doubts authors nowadays have about the reality outside literature. The readers’ ‘fictional awareness’ is heightened through reference to fictional works in which the reader is not absorbed at that moment, in the sense that he or she finds it hard to distinguish it from reality. This way, it becomes more obvious that fictions have constructed realities of their own, even a network of realities, that they provide a frame of references that exists, if not completely outside of or apart from, so yet separated from our reality. Intertextuality thus, like other metafictional devices, also poses the resulting question of how one may judge if and in how far fiction is less real than other occurrences that are likewise constructed.

Metafictional and post-modernist are two terms that often occur together. So, as mentioned above, metafictional elements became more frequent in post-modernist times. Literature written after World War II is usually referred to as post-modernist literature. Naturally, though, post-modernist is one of those expression that are given to a period and its outputs but are, by their content, an apt term for many but not all works published in that period as well as for other works, published outside this particular period. What basically makes a work post-modernist are self-referentiality, reverting to Gothic elements, and flat characters. Both Gothic elements, in the sense of supernatural elements, and flat characters, that is characters having been reduced to a single or a few traits and as a result being a little ‘undernatural’, help laying bare a fiction’s artificiality. That is why certain critics actually summarise flat characters and supernatural elements under the idea of metafictional literature, which they then use interchangeably with the term post-modernist literature. Even though supernatural elements and flat characters are indeed implicit reminders of a text’s artificiality, I suggest to differentiate between the two terms, depending on whether there is a focus on metafiction or not. Metafiction and post-modernism do have the same roots, though. Both are a reaction to the nothing behind things mentioned two paragraphs above. It might be more precise to say, however, that even for post-modernist thinkers not all concepts have been completely lost; they have rather ceased being generally accepted and lost some of their alleged reliability. Individuals still may adhere to one or the other concept, but, as has been pointed out by philosophers as Richard Rorty, usually have to do so in a rather ironic and doubtful way that allows for other concepts being true for other people. Keeping this in mind, one might actually speak of an anything ­ that took in the place of a specific something[5]. When nothing is certain, one might choose anything, and as a result for literature, ‘Wirklichkeit wird nur mehr als ein Spielfeld einzelner Möglichkeiten darstellbar’ (Sprenger 94). According to above list of characteristics, Muriel Spark’s Comforters no doubt is both a post-modernist and a metafictional piece of writing. Being first published in 1957, it is an early post-modernist text for in the UK an abundance of typically post-modernist texts was only written and published after the publication of John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman in 1969.

Other reasons that have been mentioned in order to explain the new vogue in writing self-referential texts include that today’s reality got too weird to be topped by literature. For instance Mecklenburg (20) holds that ‘Imagination [... wurde] von der zeitgenössischen Wirklichkeit überflügelt’, which has necessitated a change of focus and a retreat to imagination itself. There have been times before, though, when such a weirdness of reality has been assumed, as the old adage ‘Truth is Stranger than Fiction’, coined by Lord Byron, a Romantic by the way, proves. Furthermore, a time that celebrates subjectivity and individuality in an increasingly pluralistic environment is likely to produce authors who are very much concerned with themselves and what they do.

Metafictional writings usually prevent the readers from taking what they read at face value through the creation of fictional awareness in them. Today’s readers are asked to construct some other sense than that provided by the plot, if there is any at all. This ‘aktive Rolle [des] Lesers’ (Mecklenburg 25) can also be frustrating for the ‘sinnverweigernd[e ...] Resistenz des Werkes, sich seiner [des Lesers] Interpretation zu fügen’ (27). Other critics praise the accessibility of postmodernist works, especially when compared with some modernist texts. Obviously, it depends on the text. It is little fun to go through Walter Abish’s Alphabetical Africa. And it is likewise true that numerous metafictional texts are slightly reminiscent of what has been called light fiction (which they are not, though), such as Jeanette Winterson’s Sexing the Cherry. David Lodge adds that metafictional writers and writings actually ‘flatter the reader by treating him or her as an intellectual equal, sophisticated enough not to be thrown by the admission that a work of fiction is a verbal construction rather than a slice of life’ (207).

2 What’s Spark Got to Do With It

Spark's novels are intelligent and entertaining and mostly short and belong to those that are accessible to their readers. Yet, due to innumerable cases of self-referentiality, they are not open to easy, and let alone perfectly coherent explanation. Spark said in 1987, ‘And I like this new tendency of literature about literature, I really love it.’ (Frankel 456). Nevertheless, in her novels, ‘presented world’ and ‘presentational process’ (Sprenger 37) never become completely one. There is always a plot that is entertaining in itself, which is at the same time, however, used as a vehicle by Spark to the end of hinting at or laying bare her novels’ artificiality. I have chosen to examine metafiction in three Spark novels, namely Comforters, Loitering, Far Cry, which all focus on a young female who is involved in writing or publishing books. All three of them include in their respective plot both a detective and a love story. However, these detective and love stories are little convincing as plots – and once one has understood that many a sentence in Spark’s novels is self-referential one may actually quote from Spark’s first novel and say: ‘some phoney plot [...] in a cheap mystery piece’ (103) that sometimes even ‘end[s] with the death of the villain’ (202). Not only is, in addition, the end given away often early in the novel; Spark also otherwise invests little to get her readers intrigued in her plots. ‘I was in no doubt that William was the love of my life. For his part he behaved as if our future together wasn’t even in question.’ (177) is as close as Loitering gets to a romantic story. Hahnl points out that ‘[Spark] setzt [Mechanismen des Trivialromans] ganz bewußt ein, um Wirkung zu erzielen, um diese Wirkung zu ironisieren und [...] den Blick durch die Kulisse der Romanhandlung ins Freie, [...] ins Unermeßliche freizugeben.’ ( 310) So in those passages of intentional flatness Spark’s interest in metafiction manifests itself without ever going so far as to exclusively ‘explore a theory of fiction through the practice of writing fiction’ (Waugh 2). For her speech, her humour and wit, and most of her characters are very fascinating – admittedly sometimes it is only the way characters are described that is interesting ... and we are back at metafiction. The narrative focus is generally on the young female heroine, even though in contrast to the later two novels there is no I-narrator in Comforters, but an omniscient one. Readers will nevertheless be most likely to adopt the protagonist’s perspective for most of the time in all three novels. All three heroines are equipped with a large amount of intelligence, insight, wit and self-assurance, with the amount being increasing from one novel to the next[6]. Simultaneously, the attention paid to metafiction decreases and the characters become more naturalistic.

There are numerous parallels to Spark’s own life, which are not discussed here in detail, but added where required, for two reasons: firstly, for her reluctance to give interviews (Walker quotes from a letter by Spark: ‘I usually don’t give biographical details, [...] I believe my work can be judged on its own’ (105); also Whittaker (18)), and secondly because a broad discussion of such parallels would not contribute to the aim of this paper. What is important with respect to metafiction is that analogies to events that took place outside a written story make the story appear more real. The mentioning of the following parallels shall thus be sufficient to demonstrate how Spark creates such a authentic background: Caroline in Comforters is a Catholic convert about to write her first novel, ‘had been in Africa’ (48), has rooms in Kensington now, and an ageing Catholic Father as a friend who gives her ‘milk and biscuits’ (61) in times of troubles. Fleur in Loitering also lives ‘in the Kensington area’ (7), ‘was trained to be a secretary’ (9), and writes first articles on Newman and poems, then novels. Nancy in Far Cry, likewise at home in Kensington, is fond of the owner of her rooming-house and goes on a trip to Paris with her. These are only some episodes which Spark’s life has in common with those of her protagonists according to most of the literature on Spark, including her autobiography Curriculum Vitae. Whether these episode have truly been part of Spark’s life or not, they do create a naturalistic framework. But although Spark has her protagonists experience or narrate chains of events that are probably taken from her own life, she still challenges her readers, by the means of metafictional elements, to remember that the written text in front of them has been subject to someone’s interpretation (maybe unintentional) and possibly to manipulation (intentional). Mecklenburg (31) speaks of a ‘‘paranoiden Pose’ [..., ein] bewußt eingesetztes Spiel [des Autors] mit der Autorenrolle [... Dabei wird die] Gefahr der Vermischung mit der eigenen Person auf ironische Art und Weise angesprochen.’ The very first part of the examination of the three Spark texts will look at the strategies employed by Spark to create these doubts about authorship in her readers. An occasional reminder of a text’s fictitiousness is part of the above mentioned licence to lie – valid for authors. Spark’s chief metafictional concern actually seems to be the role of the author. One focus of this paper shall consequently be Spark’s notion of an author’s role. In a second part, further reasons for an author’s licence to lie will be collected. Spark’s special attitude towards writers includes the ascription of special talents to them, which exceed the mere talent of writing – they will be discussed in 2.2 and be viewed as an obligation to write. After this examination of the role of the author as such, 2.3 will present some concluding remarks on the relation of author and characters and on how far the concept of power proves any useful in this respect.

Imhof (277) says about metafictional texts that ‘they are not meant to represent anything but themselves’. May this hold true for some novels, in Spark’s novels it is still possible to find a microcosm or mirror of our world, as one does find them in novels from Robinson Crusoe to Brave New World and Lord of the Flies. Metafictional elements, which in Spark’s writings include supernatural elements, prohibit the possibility of directly transferring characters, actions and plots to our world. Which does not mean that Spark forgoes the possibility to insert into the plot ideas that may well be suitable for transference. In Spark’s novels, self-referentiality is meant to remind the reader not only of the fictitious quality of the novel but also that, just as the characters’ characters and doings are designed by a creative author, one and one’s life and actions might comparably be designed by a creative god. Therefore a second focus will be on Spark’s notion of religion, in particular on her notion of religion as it can be inferred from the metafictional ingredients in her writings. We will see that Spark provokes some doubt in her readers that includes the message: Don't take yourself too seriously.

2.1 Narrators are Licenced Liars

By the following juxtaposition ‘poets on the whole or professional liars of some sort’ (Comforters 126) Spark herself insinuates an equation of poets and liars. Writing is making up. It naturally includes creating on the basis some kind of inspiration. Since the outcome will always be an interpretation and possibly an intentional manipulation of the input, writing also includes lying. As the three novels Comforters, Loitering, and Far Cry suggest, it is sort of lying, though, that is not to be criticised – provided it is done the right way. The right way may include what is done in all of Spark’s novels: not to completely conceal that the stories are fictitious. Spark uses self-references, flat characters, intertextuality and other devices to convey the metafictional message that her novels are artefacts of hers. However, often Spark manages to evoke impressions of reality, which are then again juxtaposed to overt makers of fictitiousness. It is a metafictional game she plays with her readers, trapping them into the belief the story could function in our world and then suggesting the opposite. At times, her novels call to mind paintings by René Magritte, where an observer has to look twice to realise that the scene depicted is not taken from our natural surroundings. The earlier the novel, the more predominant Spark’s game. Her later novels contain fewer signs of artificiality. In the following some of these traps will be pointed out as well as some of the markers of fictitiousness, arguing that this fairly overt fictitiousness justifies (artistic) lying – which stops being lying then. Or as Jarfe (1979) describes Spark’s method (for Miss Brodie, actually, but the remark is likewise apt for her other novels): ‘[...] den Wahrheitsgehalt des Romans konsequent unterlaufen, um ihm gerecht zu werden’ (84).


[1] Imhof speaks of ‘imagination imagining itself imagine’ (9), and uses with John Barth the apt term regressus ad infinitum for instances of that kind.

[2] All quotations from these three novels are taken from the editions listed in the bibliography. For the sake of brevity I will refer to The Comforters as Comforters, to Loitering with Intent as Loitering, and to A Far Cry from Kensington as Far Cry.

[3] Mecklenburg mentions e.g. surfiction used by Raymond Federman and self-begetting novel used by Steven G Kellman.

[4] Namely self-consciousness, but also an interest in the supernatural or Gothic, a belief in the ‘Ich des Dichters [...] als Quelle der Wahrheit’ (Seeber 228) and individualism, features that will all be recurring in the following.

[5] Today actually sees a renewed interest in religion, especially in a need to have some religion. Maybe humans are more likely to believe rational brain research, that claims to have found an organic proof of an experiencing of god and of other spiritual experiences (Schnabel) – after not being so sure about similar suggestions wrapped in poetic words.

[6] As a result, Bold in particular has Spark accused of solipsism (see especially 13, 34, 112); however, most critics oppose to a solipsistic reading of her novels (e.g. Hynes 165, Whittaker 9). Fleur in Loitering understands Newman’s idea of the ‘two and two only supreme and luminously self-evident beings, my Creator and myself’ (70) as both mad and romantic.

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Metafictional Aspects in Novels by Muriel Spark
University of Leipzig  (Institute for Anglistics)
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Gesa Giesing (Author), 2002, Metafictional Aspects in Novels by Muriel Spark, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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