The paradox of suspense

British Journal of Aesthetics 36 (2):146-158 (1996)
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arratives, fictional and factual, commonly raise in their audience suspense. A narrative lays out over time a sequence of events; and because the events of the narrative are not completely told all at once, questions arise for the audience which will be answered only later in the narrative’s telling. Will the transfigured panther-woman pounce on her rival as she walks home alone at night, hearing strange noises around her? Will Sam and Annie ever make their date at the top of the Empire State Building? And the most classic question of all, Who dunnit?, or as it appears in its post-modern form, Who will do it? ‘This is the story of a murder. It hasn’t happened yet. But it will,’ Martin Amis writes at the beginning of London Fields. ‘I know the murderer, I know the murderee,’ and we’re soon told that the murderee is to be Nicola Six.1 But who will kill her? And why?



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