Liminality and Interstitiality in Neil Gaiman’s Works

Deevanshu Goyal, Ujjwal Singla


Every piece of fantasy literature is incomplete without the backbone of a fantastical world which has its own set of rules and principles to establish the credibility of the world and its characters and the adventures, as spawned by the protagonist in that world. Such fantastical world narratives might either be worlds in an alternative space and time ( the land of Narnia in C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia) or creations of the author’s imagination ( Middle Earth in Tolkien's LOTR).

However, there is another sub-genre of the Fantasy as explored in Neil Gaiman’s works, wherein the protagonist has to cross over a physical threshold (or a meta-physical/mental one); the Liminal Passage, to enter the fantasy world. This world exists in the background, invisible to the visible and real world yet, it is asserted how the reality wouldn’t function properly without the structure of this invisible fantasy world.

In this term paper, I will be discussing about the literary significance of these liminalities and fantastical worlds, within the framework of Todorov’s theory. Further, I will discuss how these fantastical structure has been used by Gaiman to reflect real-life social issues, thus transcending the normal definition of a fantasy by deluging into the reality. The marginalisation of the protagonists in Neil Gaiman’s works such as Shadow in American Gods or Richard in Neverwhere as Outsiders, serves to emphasise upon the need to look more closely in the fringes.


Fantastic; Liminal; Shadow; Fringes; Hesitation; Uncertainty; Transition; Marginality

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Courtney Linn Firman, “Fantasy Making the Invisible Visible : Liminality in Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and American Gods”, 2010.

Jennifer Miller, “Living Below and Between : Interstitiality and Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere”, 2012.

Clemens Ruthner, “Fantastic Liminality : A Theory Sketch”.

Irina Rata, “The Role of Intertextuality in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods”, 2015.

Sandor Klaposik, “Liminality in Fantastic Fiction : A Poststructuralist Approach”, 2011.

Tzevtan Todorov, “The Fantastic : A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre”, 1973.



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