Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


French Studies

First Advisor

David Wills


The term "liminality" originated in the work of two socioanthropologists, Arnold van Gennep and Victor Turner; it is descriptive of the middle phase in a rite of passage. Whereas the "betwixt and between" transitional pattern is temporary in tribal societies, it often becomes a way of life in the twentieth century. Although their projects differ greatly, Victor Turner's and Jacques Derrida's mutual interest in border spaces brings them both into this discussion. Some of the same phenomena described by the sociological term, liminality, is discussed philosophically as "undecidability" and "aporia." Liminality functions to link and to investigate three disparate twentieth-century novels written in French: Georges Bataille's Le Bleu du ciel, Julien Green's L'Autre, and Assia Djebar's L'Amour, la fantasia. Transgressivity, by its violation of convention, places one in liminality as is evident in Le Bleu du ciel. Religious experience is undeniably liminal, and in L'Autre the experience of liminality results in Christian conversion. Communitas is a spontaneous bonding that occurs among those undergoing liminal experiences together, and in L'Amour, la fantasia, the narrator writes for a community of women telling the stories of human suffering in Algeria's past. The schema for investigating each text is: the authority of the author since each of these writers is marginal to the commonly-accepted canon of French literature; the narratorial voice as it moves from one male to a male-female combination, to a proliferation of women's voices; and feminine presence which evolves in these novels as women become more prominent. The notion of liminality is useful not only in the analysis of literary texts, but it can also be seen as descriptive of the transitional state that literature and literary studies have entered during the past thirty years. Deconstruction and feminism are discussed as the catalysts prompting this sense of displacement in literary studies. Derrida uses the term ecriture to denote writing that disturbs the logocentrism of literary and philosophical thinking. Feminists writers like Helene Cixous and Luce Irigaray have borrowed this term to signify a style of writing they call ecriture feminine that explores women's language and literary production.