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Thinking on Thresholds

The Poetics of Transitive Spaces

Edited by Subha Mukherji

Thinking on Thresholds

Through a combination of case studies and theoretical investigations, the essays in this book address the imaginative power of the threshold as a productive space in literature and art.

Imprint: Anthem Press
ISBN 9780857286659
February 2011 | 252 Pages | 229 x 152mm / 9 x 6 | 8+ colour and bw illustrations
PRICE:  £70.00  /  $115.00  Buy from Amazon.co.uk  Buy from Amazon.com

About This Book

'The book immediately engages the reader with its flexibility and flare. Readers accustomed to academic books will be happily surprised by the freshness of these essays, which – almost without exception – combine the authority and depth of academic writing with the spirit of personal interest. It is most certainly a book for the general reader, as well as the scholar. ... Reading through, one is really able to enjoy the references, as well as the commentary.' —Isabel Sutton, ‘The Spectator’

'Borders suggest both crossings and blockades, but they are not a place to pause, as a threshold is. This book luminously explores a large range of such pauses in literature, art and music – moments of hesitation between physical spaces, between languages, between cultures, between texts, between stories, between then and now, between sleep and waking, between life and death, between gods and humans. The critical and theoretical approaches represented are rich and varied, and most marvellous of all, the threshold never becomes simply a metaphor or remains simply a solid location.  That, among other things, is what thinking on it means.' —Michael Wood, Professor of Comparative Literature and Acting Associate Chair, Department of English, Princeton University

'In essay after mind-stretching essay, this book demonstrates the virtues of lingering on the threshold, that enigmatic in-between space in life and art which frames our encounters even as it shapes the ways we think.' —Richard Scholar, Fellow in French, Oriel College, University of Oxford, and author of ‘Montaigne and the Art of Free-Thinking’

Why does the position of the threshold exert such a compelling hold on our imaginative lives? Why is it a resonant space, and so urgently the place of writing – the place where one may remain, avoid speaking or naming, yet speak from? Through a combination of case studies and theoretical investigations, this book addresses these questions and speaks to the imaginative power of the threshold as a productive space in literature and art.

The first volume to draw together a significant range of the applications of the ‘threshold’, the book is located naturally on the threshold between disciplines, and alive to the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of education and scholarship. But its particular intervention is mainly literary, whether through an address of literary narratives, or through the use of literary critical analysis, or indeed through acts of criticism that become creative acts. Of this line of enquiry, ‘Thinking on Thresholds’ is a pioneering volume. Its broader remit is to examine the functions of transitive spaces in poetic language and mimesis. This includes ways in which narrative and mimetic art address the material and imaginative realities of such spaces; how they are drawn to threshold experience in life, society, and historical practice; and the affinity between the artistic process and the spatial idea of the threshold. Thus, it is cross-historical without being ahistorical, interdisciplinary but methodologically coherent. It also, unusually, muses on the methodologies that the threshold calls for in narrative as well as critical practice.

Readership: Students and scholars of literature, comparative literature, aesthetics and cultural studies.

Author Information

Subha Mukherji is currently Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of English at the University of Cambridge. She has worked extensively on the relation between law and literature in the Renaissance, and on interdisciplinarity more broadly.

Table of Contents

Introduction – Subha Mukherji; Part One: Doors, Windows, Entries; 1. Windows: Looking In, Looking Out, Breaking Through – Gillian Beer; 2. ‘Zero…Zero…and Zero’: Permeable Walls and Off-stage Spaces – Jean Chothia; 3. ‘The Queer Part Doors Play’ in Nabokov’s ‘Laughter in the Dark’ – Beci Dobbin; 4. ‘Invasion from Outer Space’: The Threshold of Annunciations – Subha Mukherji; Part Two: Lives and Narratives, Territories and Worlds; 5. Unsettling Thresholds: Mignon and Her Afterlives – Terence Cave; 6. Dangerous Liaisons: Desire and Limit in ‘The Home and the World’ – Supriya Chaudhuri; 7. Writing Through Osmotic Borders: Boundaries, Liminality and Language in Mehmet Yashin’s Poetics – Rosita D’Amora; 8. Dancing and Romancing: The Obstacle of the Beach and the Threshold of the Past – Jonathan Lamb; Part Three: Matter, Mind, Psyche; 9. ‘Remember Me’ – Michael Witmore; 10. Between Sleep and Waking: Montaigne, Keats and Proust – Jeremy Lane; Part Four: Reading, Writing, Playing, Listening; 11. Reading on the Threshold – Jason Scott-Warren; 12. When I Begin I have Already Begun – Gabriel Josipovici; 13. Thresholds in Improvisation: Freedom, the Eternal Present, and the Death of Jazz – Rick Foot; 14. Thresholds of Attention: On Listening in Literature – Angela Leighton; Select Bibliography (including Discography)