Liminality in J.M. Coetzee s later experimental texts

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Peer-Reviewed Research

Abstract:

Postcoloniality, which is essentially concerned with the transition and transgression of boundaries and borders, contextualises and defines liminality as an ephemeral concept that eludes pinning down. Liminality is continually involved in a dual process of evolving and subverting: dynamic in the sense of promoting the centre, but subversive in its destabilisation of the previous status quo. In the more recent novels by Coetzee (Slow man, Diary of a bad year, Elizabeth Costello), themes that are especially acute in highlighting the subversive nature of liminality emerge repeatedly: the threshold, death, proliferation and imitation. The problem investigated is: how is the concept of liminality developed in these novels? An examination of these novels in terms of the above-mentioned themes and various conceptual and theoretical elements shows that Coetzee encourages the reader to assume a liminal status, not only as reader of the texts but also in relation to contemporary reality. It is concluded that Coetzee uses certain themes that promote liminality, often in a subversive and deconstructive manner, to inform the reader and, thus, influence him or her to effect change in the contemporary world.