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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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8 “So Much Psychic Land […] to Reclaim”: Otherworldly Encounters in Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill’s Poetry Michaela Schrage-Früh 151

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8 “So Much Psychic Land […] to Reclaim”: Otherworldly Encounters in Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill’s Poetry Michaela Schrage-Früh The concept of the Otherworld is at the heart of Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill’s poetry. The poet has adapted this concept from the oral tradition of Irish folklore and myth, drawing on the rich and multi-layered associations attached to the mythical place which, according to Dillon Johnston, traditionally provides “an explanation for seemingly inexplicable events […]; a field for erotic fantasies, for desire, and therefore for the uncon- scious; a location for those who [have] disappeared, or suffered untimely deaths; a comforting primer of death; and a paradigm for rites of pas- sage” (122). As Ní Dhomhnaill expresses it in an interview, rather than being a supernatural, or an actual place, the Otherworld is “within, the subconscious, which generally you can’t get into, and poetry is bringing stuff from that other world into this world” (Wilson 149–50). Thus, being a poet means constantly crossing the threshold between the realms of the conscious and the subconscious, the real and the imaginary, the mundane and the spiritual. For a woman poet this process of mediation is of special relevance, since, as Ní Dhomhnaill points out, “what women find when they go in there [the lios] is very different from what men have written about. […] Lots of women’s poetry has so much to reclaim: there’s so much psychic land, a whole continent, a whole Atlantis under the water to reclaim” (Wilson 152). In the Irish poetic tradition...

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