Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


Creative Writing and Publishing

First Advisor

Robin Hemley

Committee Chair and Members

Robin Hemley, Chair and Member


Magical realism, Philosophical fiction, Poetics, Surrealism


My creative fiction thesis To Swallow the Sun is part one of a novel of the same name. Cage, the protagonist, is a dreamer; he yearns for visceral experience and enjoys assignations with the night beyond his bedroom window; but as his desires draw him deeper into a world of his own, there are many who see nothing but a boy in need of fixing. After continually falling short of the expectations his family and society have crafted for him- abandoning work, “ruining” school plays, even failing to react to a prisoner’s execution- Cage is sent to a psychiatric ward. Once inside, where reality and irreality begin to blur, he remains beyond the reach of traditional care. As punishment, his shadow is removed from his being, and he is sent to solitary confinement in a room of mirrors where he vomits away his organs. With the help of a friend, Cage escapes the asylum, though he quickly finds himself alone in the vast world of nature, his body empty and his senses diminishing. As he moves forward, refilling his gut with fireflies and using a bird to speak, Cage seeks to reconnect the many pieces of himself to the world—all in hope to feel something, and be something, once again. To Swallow the Sun is a convergence of the surreal and magical real, blending and moving between subjective and objective realities. It investigates our relationships with perception, power, and poetic experience.

Following To Swallow the Sun is a critical essay entitled "Poetics of Repulsion and Imaginative Value,” an essay written in response to Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space. This essay highlights Bachelard’s emphasis on the relation between poetic images and attraction; it then proceeds to utilize his theories to examine the relation between poetic images and “repulsion”—a term used to encompass a variety of images that are often perceived in opposition to attraction, i.e. the strange, the grotesque, the horrific, and more. I begin this essay by posing two questions: Can the poetic image be anything other than attractive? And if it can…does it [the poetic image of repulsion] possess the same imaginative value as that which attracts? Using writers like Hugo and Barthelme, as well as calling attention to nightmares, the dark, and the body-as-image, this essay argues for the imaginative value of the poetic image of repulsion, upholding its ability to stir our imagination, and our soul, just as Bachelard’s images of attraction do.

Available for download on Tuesday, June 23, 2026