MC’s Trevathan publishes Liminal Zones, hosts book signing

May 6, 2013
Contact: Mary Moates ’14, Communications Assistant

Kim Trevathan, assistant professor of writing/communication at Maryville College, has recently published Liminal Zones: Where Lakes End and Rivers Begin (UT Press).

A book launch and signing will be held on Friday, May 10 at the Maryville College Bookstore from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. The book will be available for purchase during the event.

Trevathan has published two previous books, Coldhearted River: A Canoe Odyssey Down the Cumberland and Paddling the Tennessee River: A Voyage on Easy Water. His writings have also appeared in literary journals, including the Texas Review and the New Delta Review. His interests include kayaking, river exploration, tennis and creative writing.

After the death of his paddling companion, a German shepherd and yellow Labrador retriever mix named Jasper, Trevathan began a series of solitary upstream kayaking quests in search of what he refers to as “liminal zones,” transitional areas where dammed reservoirs give way to the current of the rivers that feed them. For five years, he scoured the rivers and lakes of America in order to study the areas, including rivers and creeks of his childhood, such as the Blood River and Clarks River in western Kentucky.

According to Trevathan, “liminal” is an anthropological term referring to any kind of threshold of landscape, or transition of life adolescence to adulthood.

“‘Liminal’ could mean a mouth of a cave, the edge of a cliff or a threshold in the landscape. It captures the idea of ‘transition,’” Trevathan said. “In my book, I’m really interested in places where a lake gives way to the river that feeds it and what those places are like. Some of them were really unique and unusual in ways I hadn’t experienced before outdoors, being sort of transformative and spiritual places a lot of the time. They really affected me in ways landscapes hadn’t, and I started trying to figure out what makes one place more beautiful than another, why we preserve some places over another and why moving water affects us more than a lake.”

Trevathan said that, unlike his previous books, which he described as narratives in which he recounted trips from the headwaters to the end of the rivers, he wanted to write non-fiction with more complexity in structure when he wrote Liminal Zones.

“I wanted to investigate what moving water and the landscape means to us as a culture and as humans,” Trevathan said. “How does it affect us spiritually and how can it transform us? I wanted to go beyond the recreational and look at what makes certain landscapes ones that we remember and cherish and what makes others the ones that we don’t. What makes a place special to us, spiritually and aesthetically? I looked at all of this in my series of quests within Liminal Zones.”

Trevathan said that several of his kayaking adventures within Liminal Zones detailed excursions he took with different companions, such as MC Professor of Biology Dr. Drew Crain, as well as Trevathan’s dog, Norman, who is on the cover of the book.

“Jasper, who accompanied me down the length of the Tennessee River, died in 2006,” Trevathan said. “Norman is not a replacement for Jasper, but he represents the cycle of paddling with a companion to going solo and then going back to sharing these places with companions.”

Norman, a German shepherd, will be accompanying him to the May 10 book signing, Trevathan said. He said he hopes this guest will encourage many to attend the event on campus.

"It is my wish that people are entertained by the narratives," Trevathan said. "It's not all serious, some funny stuff and blunders in there, too."

Trevathan said the book is appropriate for all ages.

“I hope that readers are able to, in a vicarious way, experience the same things I did, understand the sort of issues I’m getting at and the importance of landscape and the danger of manipulating the landscape,” Trevathan said.

For more information, visit Trevathan’s website at Those interested in purchasing the book can find it locally at the Maryville College bookstore or online at

Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the fall 2016 semester is 1,198.