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Muriel Spark’s ‘informed air’: the auditory imagination and the voices of fiction

Waugh, Patricia

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‘Events occur in my mind’, Spark has written, ‘and I record them’. What does it mean to hear something that isn’t there? Hearing inner speech or sounds, not as silent thoughts but as quasi-perceptual events in the world, confounds settled distinctions between perception, memory and imagination that structure our feeling of the real. This essay shows how her capacity for complex ‘listening in’ becomes the mainspring of her brilliance as an experimental writer, cultural observer and fictional ethicist. Eclectic in her sources – including biblical, classical, Romantic, Christian and Jewish mystic and monastic traditions of meditation – Spark reworks the concept of ‘the auditory imagination’ to produce one of the most sustained and innovative self-reflexive performances in modern fiction of the human mind’s capacity to bring to presence and realise other worlds, multiple ontologies. In her writing, fictional vocalisation is the phenomenological and expressive vehicle of an embodied ontology of plural uniqueness that opposes metaphysical reduction to a universal One that invisibly eradicates difference.


Waugh, P. (2018). Muriel Spark’s ‘informed air’: the auditory imagination and the voices of fiction. Textual Practice, 32(9), 1633-1658.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 24, 2018
Online Publication Date Nov 21, 2018
Publication Date Nov 21, 2018
Deposit Date Dec 6, 2018
Publicly Available Date Dec 6, 2018
Journal Textual Practice
Print ISSN 0950-236X
Electronic ISSN 1470-1308
Publisher Taylor and Francis Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 32
Issue 9
Pages 1633-1658


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Copyright Statement
© 2018 The Author(s). This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://<br />, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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