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Durham University

Department of English Studies


Academic Staff

Publication details for Professor Patricia Waugh

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

Author(s) from Durham


‘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.

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