Graduation Term


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of English

Committee Chair

K. A. Smith

Committee Member

Ricardo C. Cruz


This dissertation is comprised of three interrelated components that inquire into two themes: the epistemological and aesthetic merit of narrative suspense, and the generative potential of constraint-based writing. In the opening chapter, titled "Doubt in Perpetuity: Rethinking Suspense as a Mode of Aesthetics, and an Epistemological Inquiry," I undertake a theoretical inquiry to prove that suspense can be a rich analytical device to study complex aesthetics of writers. I theorize suspense at its elemental level and from an epistemological standpoint to prove that suspense is not simply a plot-level concept of "what happens next." Instead, by analyzing particular scenes from Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis and Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, I attempt to prove that complex aesthetics of authors like Márquez and Kafka can be productively studied through suspense. After the opening chapter, the dissertation turns to the creative section, which is a novel set in the coastal state of Orissa in India. Temporally, the novel is a lead up to October 29, 1999, the day a devastating cyclone hit the coastal front of Orissa, claiming more than ten thousand lives. At the heart of the story is a dysfunctional, middle-class family, whose matriarch is a self-proclaimed demigod and who has amassed formidable influence through notorious and unsavory means. The challenge to her meteoric rise comes from her youngest son, the narrator of the story. As the threat of the storm looms, the fates of the characters and the town are increasingly cast in grave peril. Through the elements of foreshadowing, premonition, prophesy, superstition, and supernatural, I attempt to sustain and enrich the momentum of suspense in the narrative. Some of these aesthetic maneuvers are directly informed by my analysis in the theoretical section. Another, important aspect of my creative work is its application of constraint, which is derived from the literary principles of Oulipo, a French literary movement that started in 1960s. Constraint is a self-selected lexical, syntactic, and structural restriction that guides the text generation process. After demonstrating such an example in my creative work, I transition to the pedagogy section of this dissertation, where I theorize and attempt to prove through empirical evidence that writing constraint can be a highly effective invention and revision technique alongside more traditional learning methods in creative writing classrooms.


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