SLL5 The Dynamics of the Threshold: Essays on Liminal Negotiations
Ana Mª Manzanas & Jesús Benito (eds.), 2006
ISBN 84-931843-3-0

This volume collects the results of the 4th ISLT held at Madrid’s Autónoma University in March 2005, and offers a challenging exploration, in film, music, literature, anthropology, sculpture and two-dimensional monuments, of the unpredictable behaviour of the threshold as a site dominated by the logic of ambiguity. Appropriately, the book abounds in questions concerning liminal dynamics. What, for instance, happens when the logic of postponement makes the limen expand? Aguirre explores in Gothic narrative technique the continuous procrastination of an event which stretches liminal space until it swallows everything like a black hole – rather like the lake in South Carolina that Ineke Bockting expands on as an able metaphor for the haunted culture of the American South. On a threshold which is an (almost) all-encompassing situation, how is power ascribed to objects, and how are borders (or their absence) configured by this process? Ana Manzanas studies in works by J.M. Coetzee and Thomas King the quiet productivity of physical gates and borders, and the way borderlessness itself may constitute new gates separating self from other, the privileged from the underprivileged. But what happens when a people such as Native
Americans find themselves actually trying to live in a liminal condition? David Murray points out that it is one thing to write about the workings and location of the liminal space, and another to live it, and argues that those who actually inhabit that threshold are the powerless or the disempowered. So the questions return. What can and cannot be done by or in the threshold? Can it, as Hein Viljoen’s essay on Breytenbach’s poetry suggests, enable survival, unleash creativity, transform reality? Can it itself be transformed? Then again, while Alan Rice asks whether the intercultural and diasporic experience of a little black slave can force us to redefine imperial notions of race, nation and identity, Isabel Soto shows how Frederick Douglass’s Narrative and Gayle Jones’s “Asylum” make manifest the intersection of three strands: intertextuality, mise-en-abyme, and “double consciousness”, to dramatize the incursion into the forbidden territory of the white text. And what if we carry the threshold into the other side of the cinema or TV screen? Taking his cue from Carroll’s looking-glass fantasy, Philip Sutton shows that the crossing of the ‘real’ character over to the fictional text is laden with conflict and tension. Yet how do we assess the relationship between the two ‘spaces’ or energies on either side of the threshold? Robert
Samuels explores that limen where literary discourse looks to the musical world while music reaches out to narrative in search of new modes of signification. Miriam Mandel sums up some of the results of the Round Table that followed the conference, and addresses yet another threshold, the future of our investigations.