Destabilising boundaries and inhabiting thresholds: eccentricity and liminality in Anne Tyler's writing

Hurford, A., 2003. Destabilising boundaries and inhabiting thresholds: eccentricity and liminality in Anne Tyler's writing. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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The thesis argues that Anne Tyler's initial concern to explore representations of eccentricity is made more complex in her subsequent novels where it becomes subsumed within notions of liminality. Both the eccentric and the liminal are based upon the idea of boundaries and limits; Tyler moves on from a questioning of behavioural 'boundaries' and perceptions of the eccentric and becomes more concerned, in my reading, with the idea of liminal 'thresholds', characterised by their permeability. Here it is possible to identify four overlapping phases: the early 'apprentice' novels up to The Clock Winder, the predominantly eccentric phase up to Morgan's Passing; the transitional phase where the theories of the anthropologist Victor Turner are relevant; and the final liminal phase.

After a discussion of Tyler's work in relation to biographical and historical context and of how, in spite of accusations of apoliticality, it is possible to locate her work on the periphery of socio-cultural engagement, the study traces the development of representations of eccentricity. Here her questioning of conventional definitions of acceptable behaviour moves away from the association between the eccentric and the Southern to the notion of what I identify as the 'double edge' of eccentricity, which is less celebratory and benign. Tyler goes on to destabilise perceptions of 'normality' by questioning the perception of the eccentric as threat and subverting the practice of imposing inflexible behavioural boundary-lines. I then consider the transition stage in her writing and my fifth chapter contains an analysis of Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant (1982) and The Accidental Tourist (1985). In these texts representations of the eccentric persist but are complicated by the notion of liminal thresholds where familial boundary-lines are fluid and indefinite. Subsequently representations of eccentricity become increasingly subsumed within a liminal dynamic which is variously re-configured in the next four novels.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Hurford, A.
Date: 2003
ISBN: 9781369315721
Divisions: Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 30 Nov 2020 15:14
Last Modified: 10 Aug 2023 09:55

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