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The Final Crossing

Death and Dying in Literature

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Edited By John J. Han and Clark C. Triplett

Since ancient times, writers and poets have grappled with death, dying, grief, and mourning in their works. The Final Crossing: Death and Dying in Literature compiles fifteen in-depth, scholarly, and original essays on death and dying in literature from around the globe and from different time periods. Written from a variety of critical perspectives, the essays target both scholars and serious students. Death and dying is an important area of study for a variety of disciplines, including psychology, psychiatry, sociology, gerontology, medical ethics, healthcare science, health law, and literary studies. The Final Crossing is a landmark compendium of academic essays on death and dying in literary texts, such as the Iliad, Ḥayy ibn Yaqẓān, Hamlet, The Secret Garden, and The Grapes of Wrath. This collection of essays not only brings an international flavor, but also a unique angularity to the discourse on thanatology. The novelty of perspectives reflects the diverse cultural and intellectual backgrounds of the contributors. This diversity opens up a fresh conversation on a number of age-old questions related to «the final crossing.» In this volume, readers will find an intriguing array of topics for further reflection and research.
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Chapter Ten: In The Driver’s Seat: Death and Isolation in Muriel Spark’s Postmodern Gothic

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CHAPTER TEN

In The Driver’s Seat

Death and Isolation in Muriel Spark’s Postmodern Gothic

HANNAH FARRELL



The Driver’s Seat (1970) is a fascinating and complex story of a woman, Lise, who, for unspecified reasons, plots her own murder. Nominated for the Lost Booker Prize in 2009 and written in the style of the nouveau roman, it is one of Muriel Spark’s most interesting and elusive novels. By blending both postmodernist techniques and the themes of a Gothic, particularly the representations of death and friendship, Spark has created a “metaphysical shocker” (Kemp 173) which truly stands out from the rest of her oeuvre and, indeed, from other contemporary texts.

Although she evokes the Gothic, she does not merely ape it. The threat in the Gothic is often just that—a threat. It lurks around corners yet is never, or rarely, executed. Death in the works of most Gothic authors is tragic to the hero or heroine because it threatens to separate them from their loved ones, and only by experiencing symbolic deaths can lovers become reunited. In this aspect, The Driver’s Seat is almost an exact inverse of a typical Gothic novel, as, for Lise, literal death is the only means to approach a personal relationship. The “boyfriend” to whom she refers throughout the text is, in fact, her murderer; the only character with whom she is shown to approach a friendship is his aunt, not...

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