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Liminal Borderlands in Irish Literature and Culture


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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6 Caught in the Liminal: Dorothy Cross’s Udder Series and Marina Carr’s By the Bog of Cats… Róisín O’Gorman 103


6 Caught in the Liminal: Dorothy Cross’s Udder Series and Marina Carr’s By the Bog of Cats… Róisín O’Gorman The cow in Seán Hillen’s photomontage, Bóthar (see fig. 1 on next page), stands in a no-man’s-land representing what cultural anthropologist Victor Turner identified as the liminal, that is, a site of transition, a zone “betwixt-and-between” (11). For Turner, the liminal is a heavily symbolic and ritualized threshold between states, as he writes: “Liminality can per- haps be described as a fructile chaos, a fertile nothingness, a storehouse of possibilities, not by any means a random assemblage but a striving after new forms and structure, a gestation process, a fetation of modes appropriate to and anticipating postliminal existence” (12). The liminal then holds a promise of growth, change, and possibilities that can come into actuality through the ritual processes of transformation. However, Hillen’s cow is caught; dangerously poised between the blur of relent- less traffic, she cannot cross the road. In this piece Hillen connects the oppositional elements of past and present, rural and urban, mythic and mundane, through the haunting figure of the cow trapped in the limi- nal zone between a past and a future. She is both sacred and tagged for ownership, a goddess yet marked for consumption.1 In this image, the sense of the liminal as a transitory zone between more stable positions is reversed. Here, the liminal is stilled; the fertile chaos remains unfulfilled, trapped within the liminal as there is no...

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