Headline April 28, 2017/ ''' *STUDENTS* AND SOCIETIES* '''


THE NOVEL IS SET IN A GIRLS DAY SCHOOL in 1930s Edinburgh, the Marcia Blaine School for Girls, for which the model was Spark's own experience at James Gillespie's School for Girls........

''This is Stanley Baldwin who got in as prime minister and got out again ere long....Miss Mackay ;the headmistress] retains him on the wall-

Because she believes in the slogan  'Safety first'.   But safety does not come first. Goodness. Truth  and  Beauty come first.''

*The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie*,   British writer Muriel Spark's best known novel, is one of those short, perfect, allusive books that seem to say not much, yet end up leaving you feeling that everything-

And more  -has been said neatly, efficiently and tidily without much exertion on the author's part. Indeed, Spark wrote this novel in a month, as is usually true of such impeccable stylistic gems.

Reading this novel, we feel that we are as much in our  ''prime''  as the titular character often claims herself to be.

The author invites us to ponder the sources of potency and virtue, and makes us feel that we, too, have it in spades. All this while throwing the most sceptical blanket on the whole idea of  education: 

*Education as self mastery, education as virtuous citizenship, education as the path of true communication*.

It is worth repeating, yet again,  The novel is set in a girls day school in 1930s Edinburgh,  the  Marcia Blaine School for Girls, for which the model was Spark's own experience at  James Gillespie's School for Girls.

Spark's teacher   Miss Christina Kay serves as the inspiration for Miss Brodie who, instead of sticking to the school's formal curriculum, imparts worldly wisdom-

Everything from the menarche to her own doomed love affair [the man she wanted to marry fell at Flanders in WWI] to her travels to fascist Italy and Germany,  both of which she admires greatly.

The school's staid headmistress [is there any other kind?]  Miss Mackay is intent on bringing her down, because Miss Brodie poses too much of a threat to ritual values.

Despite the adventurous curriculum,  Miss Brodie's girls  her ''set''  including Sandy, Rose, Mary, Eunice and others  -do very well in school.

The art teacher Mr. Lloyd  and the singing teacher, Mr Lowther, are both in love with Miss Brodie. She likes Mr Lloyd but it is Mr. Lowther with whom she has an affair.   These estrangements, needless to say, eventually bring about her downfall.

WHY do I feel it necessary to talk about this novel now? 

Aside from the vast amount of psychic territory it covers in such short space, and its incredible smooth merger of the past, present and future, I'm always interested in why,  and what {if anything}  we can do about it.

This project always feels important when the world seems intent on committing as it did in the 1930s, and as it is doing now.

*Liberal Education*  wants to impart  gentility, humility, and learning by listening and cooperativeness, whereas the real world manifests precisely the opposite tendencies.

Can education ever liberate? Or does the Student always have to work hard against education? 

Perhaps the stronger we are indoctrinated, the more we'll end up being free in the the end   -that is if we have the capacity to seek freedom at all, in which case education will have served its purpose by making us want to stand out as individuals-

While those who were never meant to be free will remain un-free, but in a contained-manner, causing the least damage to society.

Miss Brodie has plenty of the liberal teacher in her. She isn't restricted by a formal curriculum, wanting her pupils to look outside themselves. But she's also manipulative, sending one  romantic girl  off to her death in the Spanish Civil War-

And another substitute for herself as Mr. Lloyd's lover when she can't have him for herself.

Her smartest pupil, Sandy ends up  ''betraying''   her, and Miss Brodie wonders until the end of her life who did it. But was it treason on Sandy's part or was she just living out Miss Brodie's expressionist philosophy?

The contained world of the  prosperous day school is a clever way to expose whether education as a call to freedom can function at all.

Did Miss Brodie, by not following any of her imperatives of the school [and thereby putting into effect real liberal education] allow the true personalities of her students to emerge, so that=

Sandy become a  Nun,  Rose marries a businessman, and so on with each of them? 

As they grow up, they all seem to be able to move easily past  Miss Brodie's charisma. The individual personality, under any regimented order, will eventually rise, or at least fight to the last breath, which was the message of the dystopian novels of the  1930s.

The novel as an artform is a paradigmatic example of liberal education in practice, seeking to liberate us from our narrow points of view.

It does so, among other things by attaining complete closure, which is not true of most modernist novels in whose company it sits 
The implication is that the smart reader  -one who might belong to Miss Brodie's circle   -should ascribe her own meaning upon the novel. Miss Brodie,    -or novelist X or Y  -may have designs on the unsuspecting reader must outgrow the author or even before the end of the tale.

The reader must start reading life itself as a formal text in order to outdo it. The reader must always betray Miss Brodie at the right moment to enter her own prime.

After all, we have no guarantee how long our prime might last, and education never teaches about that. Fascist education accepts the impossibility of this knowledge as the first premise, while liberal education refuses to think about it.

To assert one's prime in public, repeatedly and obsessively as Miss Brodie does, is to indulge in a life-saving necessity.

Contemporary narcissistic preening, by way of social media and the like, because it is uninformed and ignorant does not partake of Miss Brodie's enlightened grandiosity.

With respectful dedication to the Students of the world. See Ya all on !WOW!   -the world Students Society and Twitter-!E-WOW!  -the Ecosystem 2011:

''' World !WOW! '''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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