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Muriel Spark and the Political Warfare Executive: The Legacies of Covert Propaganda in Post-War Fiction

LOPEZ-LOPEZ, BEATRIZ (2022) Muriel Spark and the Political Warfare Executive: The Legacies of Covert Propaganda in Post-War Fiction. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 18 April 2026.
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 3.0 (CC BY-NC-ND).


From May to October 1944, Muriel Spark was employed by the Political Warfare Executive (PWE), a secret service created by the British government during the Second World War with the mission of spreading propaganda to enemy and enemy-occupied countries. Drawing on untapped archival materials from the Political Warfare Executive Papers (The National Archives, UK), the Imperial War Museum Archive (UK) and the Muriel Spark Papers (McFarlin Library, University of Tulsa, USA), this PhD thesis provides the first major consideration of the legacies of Spark’s covert propaganda work in her post-war fiction. It argues that Spark’s fiction exposes the workings of PWE propaganda techniques to teach us how not to fall victim to them. This PhD thesis is divided into five main chapters, framed by an introduction and conclusion. The introduction describes Spark’s PWE work, explains the methodology and key contributions, and signposts the structure of the chapters that follow. Chapter 1 examines Spark’s adoption of the methods of PWE black propaganda to reveal how plausible narratives and myths are fabricated in her novels. Chapter 2 considers Spark’s use and moral justification of an ethics of deception in the context of historical states of exception such as the Second World War and the Holocaust. Chapter 3 explores Spark’s embrace of the scrambler telephone and the wireless to develop an aesthetics of interruption which seeks to foreground hitherto concealed aspects of experience. Chapter 4 analyses Spark’s representation of textual forgery as a source of anarchic creativity capable of sabotaging the authority of the social and political establishment. Chapter 5 investigates Spark’s fictional deployment of rumour as both a strategy for collective problem-solving and a weapon for subversion. The conclusion connects Spark’s PWE work to contemporary propaganda and makes the case for Spark as an excellent guide to our age of fake news.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Muriel Spark; Political Warfare Executive; Covert Propaganda; Post-War Fiction; Cultural History of the Second World War
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2022
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:19 Apr 2023 11:33

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