This book offers a comprehensive sociological study of the nature and dynamics of the modern world, through the use of a series of anthropological concepts, including the trickster, schismogenesis, imitation and liminality. Developing the view that with the theatre playing a central role, the modern world is conditioned as much by cultural processes as it is by economic, technological or scientific ones, the author contends the world is, to a considerable extent, theatrical – a phenomenon experienced as inauthenticity or a loss of direction and meaning. As such the novel is revealed as a means for studying our theatricalised reality, not simply because novels can be understood to be likening the world to theatre, but because they effectively capture and present the reality of a world that has been thoroughly ?theatricalised? – and they do so more effectively than the main instruments usually employed to analyse reality: philosophy and sociology. With analyses of some of the most important novelists and novels of modern culture, including Rilke, Hofmannsthal, Kafka, Mann, Blixen, Broch and Bulgakov, and focusing on fin-de-sicle Vienna as a crucial ?threshold? chronotope of modernity, Permanent Liminality and Modernity demonstrates that all seek to investigate and unmask the theatricalisation of modern life, with its progressive loss of meaning and our deteriorating capacity to distinguish between what is meaningful and what is artificial. Drawing on the work of Nietzsche, Bakhtin and Girard to examine the ways in which novels explore the reduction of human existence to a state of permanent liminality, in the form of a sacrificial carnival, this book will appeal to scholars of social, anthropological and literary theory.