1st Edition

Violent Liminalities in Early Modern Culture Inhabiting Contested Thresholds

By Kaye McLelland Copyright 2023
    226 Pages
    by Routledge

    226 Pages
    by Routledge

    Violent liminalities in Early Modern Culture is a methodologically innovative book combining the twin disciplines of queer theory and disability studies. It investigates the violence feared from, and directed at, inhabitants of the ‘betwixt and between’ spaces of early modern literature and culture, through a focus on the perpetuated metamorphic states of Shakespeare’s and Spenser’s liminal figures including Lavinia, Puck, and Britomart. With chapters on gender, sexuality, adolescence, madness, and physical disability, Kaye McLelland applies a bi-theoretical lens to interrogate the ways in which being simultaneously ‘neither’ and ‘both’ brings to bear the non-normative disruption identified by queer theory in ways that use binary systems against themselves. For many of Spenser’s and Shakespeare’s characters, the ‘in-between’ state, whether ritually or otherwise induced, transforms the instantaneous binary threshold of the limen into a permanent ‘habitation’. This created space is one of great power that is feared and violently countered by those who would shut it down. Set against the literary history of Spenser’s and Shakespeare’s Ovidianism and festivity, and the historical context of the post-Reformation transformation from a tertiary to a binary model of the afterlife, this volume identifies a persistent positioning of liminal literary figures in proximity to the liminality of the dead and dying, whilst simultaneously tracing the positive ways in which these inhabitants of the powerful ‘betwixt and between’ are depicted.


    Chapter 1: ‘I Wooed Thee With My Sword’:

    Violence and Liminal Sexuality in Renaissance Literature and Culture

    Chapter 2: ‘Hell’s Pantomimicks’:

    Violence and Liminal Gender in the Festive and Everyday Worlds

    Chapter 3: Liminality of Life Stage:

    Education, Adolescence, and Corporal Punishment

    Chapter 4: Lunatics, Lovers, and Poets:

    Violence and Altered Mental States in Renaissance Life and Literature

    Chapter 5: Halting to the Grave:

    Disability and Liminal Space

    Coda: The Final Threshold


    Kaye McLelland completed her Ph.D. at University College London. Since gaining her doctorate, Kaye has been teaching at several universities including the University of Cambridge. She has had essays and articles published on disability and sexuality in Framing Premodern Desires (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2017) and in the journal Early Modern Women. Kaye has recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship with the Society for Renaissance Studies on the subject of early modern preaching and the body. This has resulted in the publication of 'Halting Jacob in Early Modern Sermons' in Renaissance Studies (2021) and several other forthcoming articles.