Liminality and the Short Story: Boundary Crossings in American, Canadian, and British Writing, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Liminality and the Short Story

Boundary Crossings in American, Canadian, and British Writing, 1st Edition

Edited by Jochen Achilles, Ina Bergmann


282 pages

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pub: 2014-12-17
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This book is a study of the short story, one of the widest taught genres in English literature, from an innovative methodological perspective. Both liminality and the short story are well-researched phenomena, but the combination of both is not frequent. This book discusses the relevance of the concept of liminality for the short story genre and for short story cycles, emphasizing theoretical perspectives, methodological relevance and applicability.

Liminality as a concept of demarcation and mediation between different processual stages, spatial complexes, and inner states is of obvious importance in an age of global mobility, digital networking, and interethnic transnationality. Over the last decade, many symposia, exhibitions, art, and publications have been produced which thematize liminality, covering a wide range of disciplines including literary, geographical, psychological and ethnicity studies.

Liminal structuring is an essential aspect of the aesthetic composition of short stories and the cultural messages they convey. On account of its very brevity and episodic structure, the generic liminality of the short story privileges the depiction of transitional situations and fleeting moments of crisis or decision. It also addresses the moral transgressions, heterotopic orders, and forms of ambivalent self-reflection negotiated within the short story's confines. This innovative collection focuses on both the liminality of the short story and on liminality in the short story.


"This book will greatly enhance students’ knowledge of the historical evolution of the short story, and scholars of the short story genre will feel illuminated by the application of the theory of liminality to the conceptualization of the short story […] The contributors’ unique approach to the liminal aspects in the short story will allow readers to see the short story form in a new light." – Monika Elbert, Department of English, Montclair State University, USA

Table of Contents

Part I: Liminality and the Short Story 1.1 Uses of Liminality 1. "Betwixt and Between": Boundary Crossings in American, Canadian, and British Short FictionJochen Achilles and Ina Bergmann Part II: The Liminality of the Short Story 2.1 Conceptualizations of Liminality 2. Modes of Liminality in American Short Fiction: Condensations of Multiple IdentitiesJochen Achilles3. Liminal and Liminoid Discourses in Modernist Women’s Short Fiction: Performance, Spectatorship, and CinemaClaire Drewery4. In the Generic Interzone: On the Liminal Character of William S. Burroughs’s Routines Florian Zappe 2.2 Methods of Approach 5. Cognitive Liminality: On the Epistemology of the Short Story Michael Basseler6. Experiencing Short Stories: A Cognitive Approach Focusing on Reading Narrative Space Renate Brosch7. Between Story and Essay: Micro-Markers of Storyness Susan Lohafer 2.3 Conditions of Publication 8. "Small Tales": Brevity and Liminality in Early American MagazinesOliver Scheiding9. The Liminal Spaces of Hawthorne’s Short Story Cycles: Rites of Passage in History and Story-Telling Alfred Bendixen10. Variety in Unity, Unity in Variety: The Liminal Space of the American Short Story Anthology Kasia Boddy Part III: Liminality in the Short Story 3.1 Contexts of Writing 11. "I Have Heard Many Stranger Stories than This, in the Villages Along the Hudson": Magic Realism in Upstate New York Ina Bergmann12. Madness as a Liminal State in the American Short Story: Edgar Allan Poe’s Ratiocination and Charles Sanders Peirce’s Logic of AbductionSusanne Rohr13. Of Death, Dying, and Disease: The Short Story and American Heterotopian Illness Narratives Carmen Birkle14. How Significant Food Can Make a Short Story into a Meal: The Hyphenated Immigrant Experience in Contemporary American Short Fiction Jeff Birkenstein 3.2 Topics of Liminality 15. Liminal Subjects, Mixed Genre: Richard Wright and the African American Short Story Glenda R. Carpio16. "I am not that": Liminality in the Writings of Joanna RussPaul March-Russell17. "Almost Like a Ghost": Spectral Figures in Alice Munro’s Short Fiction Ailsa Cox18. Liminality, Metamorphic Experience, and the Short Story Form: Alice Munro’s "Wenlock Edge"Katherine Orr19. Indigenous Interstitial Spaces: Liminality in Thomas King’s "Borders" Evelyn P. Mayer

About the Editors

Jochen Achilles is Professor of American Studies at the University of Wuerzburg, Germany. His authored book publications include a study on the development of Sean O'Casey's plays in the context of modern drama and a book on the interface between the gothic tradition and psychological fiction, focusing on Sheridan Le Fanu. His most recent book publications are co-edited volumes on representations of evil in fiction and film (2009) and on liminal anthropologies (2012).

Ina Bergmann is Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Wuerzburg, Germany. She is the author of And Then the Child Becomes a Woman (2003) and co-editor of Global Challenges and Regional Responses in Contemporary Drama in English (2003) and Representations of Evil in Fiction and Film (2009).

About the Series

Routledge Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Literature

This series is our home for cutting-edge, upper-level scholarly studies and edited collections. Taking an interdisciplinary approach to literary studies, it engages with topics such as philosophy, science, race, gender, film, music, and ecology. Titles are characterized by dynamic interventions into established subjects and innovative studies on emerging topics.

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