Liminality

Although the phenomenon of liminality appears in the earliest children’s texts, it doesn’t appear in children’s literature scholarship until the beginning of the twenty-first century, chiefly in the adjective form, “liminal,” a polyseme whose other meanings relate to psychology and mysticism. “Liminality” is a coinage from the Scottish anthropologist Victor Turner (1969), who drew on “liminaire,” a term used by Arnold Van Gennep (1909) in his ethnographical writings on preindustrial societies to designate the middle, transitional stage of a three-stage paradigmatic rite of passage (“rites which accompany every change of place, state, social position and age”). Joseph Campbell adapted this construct as a basis for The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), an instance of Van Gennep’s influence on literary studies, although Turner’s influence has proved deeper and more pervasive.

Liminality describes the quality of being socially segregated, set apart and divested of status, and relates to associated characteristics and …

This essay may be found on page 138 of the printed volume.

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