Muriel Spark, “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie”

1961

Set in Edinburgh in the 1930s, this short novel tells the story of Miss Jean Brodie, an unmarried woman “in her prime” who inculcates her “set” of girls with “sophisticated” but misguided information about art, politics (fascism), and sexuality (she refuses to have an affair with Mr. Lloyd, but wants Rose to.) Eventually, she is betrayed by one of her own “set,” but only suspects that it is the plain, beady-eyed Sandy, now “Sister of the Transfiguration” and a writer. I am most interested in the narrative strategy of the text, which is unusual in its persistent use of prolepsis to give away the ending of the story. In this sense, it is a sort of narrative promiscuity, an enactment of the same misguided availability and openness that its title character (Jean Brodie) has taught its focalizing character (Sandy).

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