Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Allen Webb


Some modern creative writers have shown a talent not only in writing tales, but also in philosophy and theory as they examine questions and problems in fiction-making and the very act of reading. This dissertation examines the role the metafictive novel plays in the development of literary theory and fiction. I explore how writers of this type of novel emerge as creative metacritics who overtly and/or covertly, through their fiction, respond to and critique literary theory. The inquiry examines the reciprocal relationship between the fiction of creative metacritics and important movements in literary theory in the late 20th Century. All four novelists discussed in this study assert the right to participate in the interpretation of their fiction, and in the discourse about how fiction itself should be understood.

Creative metacritics have different intentions and use several narrative techniques to address literary theory. Alain Robbe-Grillet and Tim O'Brien use covert narrative strategies while Italo Calvino and John Barth represent a more direct and overt treatment of theory in fiction. The metacritical writers under consideration explain, correct, and modify critical interpretations of the novel genre. Alain Robbe-Grillet prefigures the principles of post-structuralism while examining the limitations of structuralism. Italo Calvino experiments with gaps in existing critical views of the role of the reader and author in interpretation and proposes a more inseparable bond between them in interpreting fiction. Tim O'Brien employs techniques of narrative theory to elaborate his philosophy about truth. John Barth modified his and other critics' attitudes towards the postmodern novel. These creative metacritics not only respond to literary theory and criticism, but, in so doing, extend the range of the novel itself.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access