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Liminal Borderlands in Irish Literature and Culture

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Edited By Irene Gilsenan Nordin and Elin Holmsten

Liminality, if interpreted as a concern with borders and states of in-betweenness, is a widespread theme in Irish literature and culture, which is perhaps not surprising considering the colonial and postcolonial background of Ireland. The liminal, from the Latin word limen, meaning «a threshold», can be broadly defined as a transitional place of becoming. It is a borderland state of ambiguity and indeterminacy, leading those who participate in the process to new perspectives and possibilities.
This collection of essays examines the theme of liminality in Irish literature and culture against the philosophical discourse of modernity and focuses on representations of liminality in contemporary Irish literature, art and film in a variety of contexts. The book is divided into four sections. The first part deals with theoretical aspects of liminal states. Other sections focus on liminal narratives and explore drama as liminal rites of passage, while the last part examines transformative spaces in contemporary Irish women’s poetry.

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Introduction: Borders and States of In-Betweenness in Irish Literature and Culture Irene Gilsenan Nordin and Elin Holmsten 7

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Introduction: Borders and States of In-Betweenness in Irish Literature and Culture Irene Gilsenan Nordin and Elin Holmsten Liminality, if interpreted as a concern with borders and states of in- betweenness, is a widespread theme in Irish literature and culture, which is perhaps not surprising considering the colonial and postcolonial back- ground of Ireland. As Michael G. O’Sullivan points out in the first chapter of this study, this theme of liminality has been analysed by many Irish Studies scholars from a postcolonial point of view. This volume, how- ever, widens the scope to include not only socio-political and historical analyses, but also explorations of the existential aspects of liminality in Irish literature, art and culture. Thus, the liminal, from the Latin word limen, meaning “a threshold,” can be broadly defined as a transitional place of becoming, a state of flux between two different states of being. It is characterised by Victor Turner in anthropological terms as a rite of passage, involving a process of change on the part of the participant. It is a borderland state of ambiguity and indeterminacy, a transformational state characterised by a certain openness and relaxation of rules, leading those who participate in the process to new perspectives and possibilities. Physical places that are often associated with the liminal, for instance, are borders and crossroads, as well as physical features, such as rivers or the shoreline, and liminal thresholds like windows and doors. Liminal beings studied in this volume are, for example, illegal immigrants in the process...

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