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Liminal subjectivities in contemporary film and literature

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posted on 2023-06-08, 11:20 authored by Ian Paul McHugh
This thesis discusses the intersection of subjectivity and the liminal in contemporary literary and filmic texts. In discussion of eight texts, the thesis weighs the dual meaning of “liminal subjectivities” – the liminal space between subjectivities, and the condition of subjectivity as it negotiates the liminal. It aims to explore how liminality manifests in manners both universal and specific to the literary or filmic form, in the embodiments of characters, and the rhythms and poetics of the text. It considers the liminal a privileged trope of destabilised subjectivity, a space of suspension and potentiality, and explores how the liminal functions as an interface between haecceity and otherness; whether it binds together or holds apart; if it is a space between oppositional states or a continuum of specific sites of intensity. The eight texts discussed are The Rings of Saturn and Vertigo (W. G. Sebald), Sputnik Sweetheart, Kafka on the Shore, and After Dark (Haruki Murakami), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep (Michel Gondry), My Own Private Idaho (Gus Van Sant). The work of Sebald and Gondry is considered in translation from the original German and Japanese. The thesis considers both literary and filmic texts to contrast the salient modalities of subjectivity that each form constructs. Each chapter considers how liminality manifests at the surface of the text, how a liminal agency operates to interrupt, destabilise, and displace subjectivity in the spaces between languages, genre, form, voice, states of consciousness, word and image, facticity and fictionality, and cinematic and literary tropes and modes. The discussion explores how this is reflected and expanded upon within the text, in liminal embodiments, intensities, and motifs, such as the hypnagogic, rites of passage, the uncanny, home, the vespertine, night, metamorphosis, carnival, as well as issues of space – the non-place, the extraterritorial, and nomadic space.


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  • eng


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