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THRESHOLDS AND LIMINALITY

The Latin word limin, stands for the threshold of a doorway. Derived from the word limin, the term, liminality, refers to a
"threshold period." This is a time of transition and transformation; a betwixt and between, no-longer but not-yet. A perso
liminality no longer participates in the normal activities in daily life but slides into a world where the "rules" no longer ap
Soon after the passage, the individual will reenter daily life where rules and obligations again apply. Many people live th
daily lives in liminality. For example, a police officer goes to work every day and deals with criminals who are not law ab
and he is often times put in situations where the law is bent and changed, such as shooting an individual for the protec
others. In his personal life, this police officer is a law-abiding citizen; he does not shoot people outside his work. Howev
the times when he is arresting or defending, he is a position where he is betwixt and between. He is not a criminal, but
need to act like one. He is a law abiding citizen, but needs to break a law in order to obtain order. Daily rules do not ap
him at this moment in time.
The term threshold means the sill of a doorway. Literally, it is the place a person must cross under in order to enter a ho
There is a point of decision between each of the persons who meet at the threshold. A person can decide to allow som
enter their private home, or business, or rather reject them, not allowing their entrance. And once a certain person cros
threshold, they are subject to the rules and obligations that the household implies. When a groom carries his bride ove
threshold of their new home, it is symbolic of the new life the two will enter into; the life that comes with new rules than
might not have had on the other side of the relationship.
A major element in Fantasy Literature is the use of the limin or a character's liminality. Often times, a character will com
threshold in their life that must be either crossed or turned away from. These thresholds can be internal decisions, such
Froto accepting, or not accepting the task of The Ring, or they can be the crossing of a physical threshold such as Gre
crossing the doorway into the hall, Heorot. In most writing however, the crossing of the threshold (either physical or me
represents a point where two different worlds collide. Physically, the outside and the inside, as for Grendel, or mentally,
the possibility of two alternate endings based on a decision in Froto's journey.
Anthropologist, Arnold van Gennep, says that there are three phases to crossing the threshold. The first phase is sepa
the second is transition, and the final stage is incorporation. The second stage of transition is the stage in which liminal
becomes possible. It is during the transition state that a person remains uncertain because they have been separated f
their world, but aren't yet connected to a new one. To Van Gennep, this place can be dangerous because the daily rout
life are put in limbo. Therefore a person who is in transition doesn't have their daily guidelines to follow anymore and th
possibly have a negative effect not only that particular person, but also those who are in their surroundings.
Van Gennep's thoughts on thresholds were taken more in depth by Victor Turner. Turner said that during the transition
person becomes liminal. Because the person is neither attached to their previous way of life nor attached to their future
life, they become neutralized. Turner, in his book, The Ritual Process, says the characteristics of a liminar "are necessa
ambiguous, since this condition and these persons elude or slip through the network of classifications that normally loc
states and positions in cultural space. Liminal entities are neither here nor there; they are betwixt and between the pos
assigned and arrayed by law, custom, convention, and ceremonial."
According to Victor Turner there are three kinds of liminality. The first kind is "ritual liminality." This is when the person i
in transition due to a right of passage, often times concerning a maturity ritual. In this kind of liminality, the person will a
be expected to reenter the society, as their transition is just temporary. A young boy in a tribe who is involved in a matu
may not have to subject to the rules of his tribe while being involved in this ritual. After his manhood is obtained howeve
expected to return to his tribe, now as a responsible man.
The second kind of liminality is "outsiderhood." Outsiderhood involves a person who becomes part of the "anti-structure
voluntarily or involuntarily and either for a short time or permanently. A good example of a person, who is involved in th
of liminality, is a highly religious person, such as a monk or a nun. They may (or may not) chose to live outside the bou
of normal life, by living in a monastery or nunnery. This person does not follow the rules and guidelines of the outside w
but is not in beyond them either. They are between the two, in a sort of limbo. Often times, a person in this kind of limin
chose not to return to the world they once knew, either because they enjoy their life outside the "structured world" or be
they do not fit into the world from which they came.
The third and final kind of liminality is the "marginal." In Dramas, Fields and Metaphors, Turner says marginals are,
"simultaneously members (...) of two or more social groups whose social definitions and cultural norms are distinct from
often even opposed to, one another." These kinds of people do not seem to fit into in facet of society. They are like the
outsiders who cannot live in harmony with the structure around them, but marginals do, although they may feel unattac
uncomfortable with the structure. Turner also says they cannot be fully integrated to one side or another, which is what
them as marginal rather than outsiders. The marginal is always on the edge of both worlds. Another author, Robert Par
these people are often smarter and have a more objective viewpoint of their society. The example of the police officer u
earlier is a marginal liminal. He knows both societies and because of his work will never belong to one side fully. He wi
the edge of both worlds and can often travel easily between them.
Regardless of which form of liminality, Turner believes that all liminals have several things in common. First liminal peo

THRESHOLDS AND LIMINALITY

The Latin word limin, stands for the threshold of a doorway. Derived from the word limin, the term, liminality, refers to a
"threshold period." This is a time of transition and transformation; a betwixt and between, no-longer but not-yet. A perso
liminality no longer participates in the normal activities in daily life but slides into a world where the "rules" no longer ap
Soon after the passage, the individual will reenter daily life where rules and obligations again apply. Many people live th
daily lives in liminality. For example, a police officer goes to work every day and deals with criminals who are not law ab
and he is often times put in situations where the law is bent and changed, such as shooting an individual for the protec
others. In his personal life, this police officer is a law-abiding citizen; he does not shoot people outside his work. Howev
the times when he is arresting or defending, he is a position where he is betwixt and between. He is not a criminal, but
need to act like one. He is a law abiding citizen, but needs to break a law in order to obtain order. Daily rules do not ap
him at this moment in time.
The term threshold means the sill of a doorway. Literally, it is the place a person must cross under in order to enter a ho
There is a point of decision between each of the persons who meet at the threshold. A person can decide to allow som
enter their private home, or business, or rather reject them, not allowing their entrance. And once a certain person cros
threshold, they are subject to the rules and obligations that the household implies. When a groom carries his bride ove
threshold of their new home, it is symbolic of the new life the two will enter into; the life that comes with new rules than
might not have had on the other side of the relationship.
A major element in Fantasy Literature is the use of the limin or a character's liminality. Often times, a character will com
threshold in their life that must be either crossed or turned away from. These thresholds can be internal decisions, such
Froto accepting, or not accepting the task of The Ring, or they can be the crossing of a physical threshold such as Gre
crossing the doorway into the hall, Heorot. In most writing however, the crossing of the threshold (either physical or me
represents a point where two different worlds collide. Physically, the outside and the inside, as for Grendel, or mentally,
the possibility of two alternate endings based on a decision in Froto's journey.
Anthropologist, Arnold van Gennep, says that there are three phases to crossing the threshold. The first phase is sepa
the second is transition, and the final stage is incorporation. The second stage of transition is the stage in which liminal
becomes possible. It is during the transition state that a person remains uncertain because they have been separated f
their world, but aren't yet connected to a new one. To Van Gennep, this place can be dangerous because the daily rout
life are put in limbo. Therefore a person who is in transition doesn't have their daily guidelines to follow anymore and th
possibly have a negative effect not only that particular person, but also those who are in their surroundings.
Van Gennep's thoughts on thresholds were taken more in depth by Victor Turner. Turner said that during the transition
person becomes liminal. Because the person is neither attached to their previous way of life nor attached to their future
life, they become neutralized. Turner, in his book, The Ritual Process, says the characteristics of a liminar "are necessa
ambiguous, since this condition and these persons elude or slip through the network of classifications that normally loc
states and positions in cultural space. Liminal entities are neither here nor there; they are betwixt and between the pos
assigned and arrayed by law, custom, convention, and ceremonial."
According to Victor Turner there are three kinds of liminality. The first kind is "ritual liminality." This is when the person i
in transition due to a right of passage, often times concerning a maturity ritual. In this kind of liminality, the person will a
be expected to reenter the society, as their transition is just temporary. A young boy in a tribe who is involved in a matu
may not have to subject to the rules of his tribe while being involved in this ritual. After his manhood is obtained howeve
expected to return to his tribe, now as a responsible man.
The second kind of liminality is "outsiderhood." Outsiderhood involves a person who becomes part of the "anti-structure
voluntarily or involuntarily and either for a short time or permanently. A good example of a person, who is involved in th
of liminality, is a highly religious person, such as a monk or a nun. They may (or may not) chose to live outside the bou
of normal life, by living in a monastery or nunnery. This person does not follow the rules and guidelines of the outside w
but is not in beyond them either. They are between the two, in a sort of limbo. Often times, a person in this kind of limin
chose not to return to the world they once knew, either because they enjoy their life outside the "structured world" or be
they do not fit into the world from which they came.
The third and final kind of liminality is the "marginal." In Dramas, Fields and Metaphors, Turner says marginals are,
"simultaneously members (...) of two or more social groups whose social definitions and cultural norms are distinct from
often even opposed to, one another." These kinds of people do not seem to fit into in facet of society. They are like the
outsiders who cannot live in harmony with the structure around them, but marginals do, although they may feel unattac
uncomfortable with the structure. Turner also says they cannot be fully integrated to one side or another, which is what
them as marginal rather than outsiders. The marginal is always on the edge of both worlds. Another author, Robert Par
these people are often smarter and have a more objective viewpoint of their society. The example of the police officer u
earlier is a marginal liminal. He knows both societies and because of his work will never belong to one side fully. He wi
the edge of both worlds and can often travel easily between them.
Regardless of which form of liminality, Turner believes that all liminals have several things in common. First liminal peo

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