Narrative Liminality and/in the Formation of American Modernities

This DFG-funded network proposes the notion of “narrative liminality” as a category for the study of US American culture. Taking its cues, on the one hand, from recent cultural-studies interests in the concept of symbolic forms and, on the other hand, from an overwhelming focus on the symbolic form of narrative in the wake of the “narrative turn” that has informed much recent American studies scholarship, the network asks for the cultural processes and negotiations that take place at the fringes and outside of the narrative symbolic form. It proposes to focus on the cultural dynamics of what we call “narrative liminality”—a property of discourses and practices that are not yet or not anymore (only) narrative; of discourses and practices whose symbolic forms entail some extent of narrativity or that are culturalized as archives or reservoirs for potential narratives. Such narrative liminality, we suggest, marks the formal dynamics and cultural work of forms such as the database, play, or ritual. Proceeding from the hypothesis that narrative liminality gains particular cultural currency in contexts of sociocultural transformation, dynamization, and self-reflection, the network aims to explore how narrative liminality has served as a key idiom in the negotiation of American modernities.

For more information, please refer to the project webpate at: