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In-Between – Liminal Spaces in Canadian Literature and Cultures

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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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The Melancholy of Urban Childhood: Liminality in Madeleine Thien’s Simple Recipes (Martina Horakova)

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Martina Horakova

The Melancholy of Urban Childhood: Liminality in Madeleine Thien’s Simple Recipes

Abstract: This article provides a close reading of Canadian author Madeleine Thien’s collection of short stories Simple Recipes (2001) in order to explore how the concept of liminality can be used to articulate the characters’ sense of (un)belonging, their identity negotiation, and their experiences of transition. Liminality, in the broader sense of a threshold moment (the period or place in-between), is analyzed from two perspectives. The first type of liminality is temporal and relates to Thien’s elaborate anatomy of growing up; it concerns the transition from childhood to adulthood which is marked by a sense of loss, abandonment, and grief (caused by dysfunctional family relationships). The second type of liminality ties in with Thien’s depiction of in-between spaces, the private and public settings of suburban Vancouver. The relationship between indoor and outdoor space is intricate: while the domestic space is often a source of negative emotions which the young characters long to escape, the cityscape provides a seeming safety and a sense of belonging, particularly for the second generation of characters from immigrant families. In my essay, I will argue that Thien’s stories, by interweaving these two kinds of liminality, present a specific aesthetics in which most characters find themselves in a transient, restless mode of living, lingering between childhood and adulthood, domestic and public spaces, only rarely finding closure or resolution. The threshold moments and transitions, in...

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