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In-Between – Liminal Spaces in Canadian Literature and Cultures


Edited By Stefan L. Brandt

In the past few years, the concept of «liminality» has become a kind of pet theme within the discipline of Cultural Studies, lending itself to phenomena of transgression and systemic demarcation. This anthology employs theories of liminality to discuss Canada’s geographic and symbolic boundaries, taking its point of departure from the observation that «Canada» itself, as a cultural, political, and geographic entity, encapsulates elements of the «liminal.» The essays comprised in this volume deal with fragmented and contradictory practices in Canada, real and imagined borders, as well as contact zones, thresholds, and transitions in Anglo-Canadian and French-Canadian texts, discussing topics such as the U.S./Canadian border, migration, French-English relations, and encounters between First Nations and settlers.

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“… beyond the invisible barrier at Portage and Main”: Liminality in John Marlyn’s Under the Ribs of Death (Bernhard Wenzl)


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Bernhard Wenzl

“… beyond the invisible barrier at Portage and Main”: Liminality in John Marlyn’s Under the Ribs of Death

Abstract: This essay focuses on individual and collective forms of liminality in John Marlyn’s Under the Ribs of Death. Set in early twentieth-century Winnipeg, the 1957 immigrant novel explores liminal experiences related to ethnic identity, male sexuality, social class, urban spaces and turbulent economic times. As the son of a poor working-class family from Hungary, Sandor Hunyadi makes every effort to become a true Canadian and a successful businessman, but, no matter how hard he tries to overcome contemporary ethnic prejudices and economic hardships, his personal and professional life remains in liminality. In other words, the protagonist undergoes separation, fails at incorporation, and becomes stuck in transition.


Liminality1 is a central motif of John Marlyn’s Under the Ribs of Death.2 First published by McClelland and Stewart in 1957, the two-part novel explores the lives of East European immigrants in western Canada. Set in Winnipeg before and after the First World War, it focuses on the personal and professional experiences of Sandor Hunyadi. As the teenage son of a Hungarian family, he grows up in the working-class neighbourhood of the North End. Faced with poverty at home and prejudice at school, he strives to gain wealth and recognition in Canadian society. With his mind set on becoming a successful businessman, he adopts an English name, takes commercial courses at...

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