Aesthetic distance as a form of liminality in selected short stories of American literature

Natália Čechová 1
  • 1 Department of English and American Studies Faculty of Arts Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, , Nitra, Slovakia


Aesthetic distance is a phenomenon that has attracted a considerable amount of attention, especially since the first works of postmodernism came to light. Aesthetic distance is based on creating such works which - using certain artistic tools and techniques - break the illusion and thus inhibit readers from immersing themselves in the literary world portrayed in the work they read. As a result, aesthetic distance creates a liminal space, or an invisible but consciously perceivable border between reality, i.e. the world we live in and fiction, i.e. the world we want to relocate to and enjoy during the reading process. The paper is based on an article by Bjorn Thomassen, in which he presents several types of liminality and states that the typology is not final. My aim is to prove that liminality can occur in literature as well, particularly in works built on aesthetic distance. In this matter, I focus on the reception theory of Wolfgang Iser, who studies literary texts from three perspectives: the text, the reader and the communication between the two. The theory is applied to selected short stories of American literature, which contain illusion-breaking features and thus may be viewed as liminal spaces.

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