Costume de ghost”: Liminality in Grace King’s Balcony Stories

  • Stéphanie Durrans


The typically feminine space of the balcony has often been construed as a form of material enclosure and confinement for Southern women. Far from dramatizing such patterns of entrapment, Grace King uses the balcony as an intrinsically liminal space allowing her female narrators free play in subverting well-established customs and conventions. This chapter uses Victor Turner’s reflections on liminality and social drama as a theoretical framework to explore King’s Balcony Stories (1893) and examine their ability to effect a reversal of perspectives from the privileged position that the balcony offers to its occupants. King’s women on the balcony may be seen to provide mere “entertainment,” but if we consider, along with Turner, the etymology of the term and its affinities with liminal space, such an activity takes on a much more subversive dimension.

Works Cited

  1. Ahlstrom, Courtney Leigh. A Space in between: Material Enclosures for the Women of New Orleans, 1850–1870. MA thesis. The Smithsonian Associates and Corcoran College of Art and Design, 2012.Google Scholar
  2. Barthes, Roland. The Neutral, translated by Rosalind E. Krauss and Denis Hollier. Columbia University Press, 2005.Google Scholar
  3. Bryan, Violet Harrington. The Myth of New Orleans in Literature: Dialogues of Race and Gender. University of Tennessee Press, 1993.Google Scholar
  4. Buisson, Françoise. “The Theatricality of Writing in Grace King’s Short Stories: Invisible Women on the Balcony.” Paper presented at the International Conference “Grace King of New Orleans: Beyond Local Color,” organized by the European Study Group of 19th-Century American Literature, Université de Lorraine, France, October 9–11, 2014.Google Scholar
  5. Dumazedier, Joffre. Le Loisir et la ville. Editions du Seuil, 1962.Google Scholar
  6. Hanrahan, Heidi M. “Grace King’s Balcony Stories as Narrative of Community.” Narratives of Community: Women’s Short Story Sequences, edited by Roxanne Harde. Cambridge Scholars, 2007, pp. 218–240.Google Scholar
  7. Juncker, Clara. “Grace King: Feminist, Southern Style.” The Southern Quarterly: A Journal of the Arts in the South, vol. 26, no. 3, 1988, pp. 15–30.Google Scholar
  8. ———. “The Mother’s Balcony: Grace King’s Discourse of Femininity.” New Orleans Review, vol. 15, no. 1, 1988, pp. 39–46.Google Scholar
  9. King, Grace. Balcony Stories. The Graham Press, 1914.Google Scholar
  10. ———. Memories of a Southern Woman of Letters. Kessinger Legacy Reprints. The Macmillan Company, 1932.Google Scholar
  11. Kirby, David. Grace King. Twayne, 1980.Google Scholar
  12. Kuilan, Susie Scifres. “The ‘All-Seeing Eye’ in Grace King’s Balcony Stories.” Songs of the Reconstructing South: Building Literary Louisiana, 1865–1945, edited by Suzanne Disheroon-Green and Lisa Abney, foreword by Robin Miller. Greenwood Press, 2002, pp. 99–108.Google Scholar
  13. Parvulescu, Anca. “The Professor’s Desire: On Roland Barthes’s The Neutral.Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies Research. Paper 24, 2007,
  14. Piacentino, Edward J. “The Enigma of Black Identity in Grace King’s ‘Joe.’” Southern Literary Journal, vol. 19, no. 1, 1986, pp. 56–67.Google Scholar
  15. Taylor, Helen. Gender, Race, and Region in the Writings of Grace King, Ruth McEnery Stuart, and Kate Chopin. Louisiana State University Press, 1989.Google Scholar
  16. Turner, Victor. From Ritual to Theatre: The Human Seriousness of Play. PAJ Publications, 1982.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stéphanie Durrans
    • 1
  1. 1.Université Bordeaux MontaignePessacFrance

Personalised recommendations