Liminality in J.M. Coetzee s later experimental texts

Access full-text article here


Peer-Reviewed Research


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.