This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
reaction (horror, vomit) to a threatened breakdown in meaning caused by the loss of the distinction between subject and object or between self and other. The rimary e!am le for what causes such a reaction is the cor se (which traumatically reminds us of our own materiality)" however, other items can elicit the same reaction# the o en wound, shit, sewage, even the skin that forms on the surface of warm milk. Kristeva$s understanding of the %abject% rovides a hel ful term to contrast to &acan$s %object of desire% or the %objet petit a.% ('ee &acan (odule on )esire.) *hereas the objet petit a allows a subject to coordinate his or her desires, thus allowing the symbolic order of meaning and intersubjective community to ersist, the abject %is radically e!cluded and,% as Kristeva e! lains, %draws me toward the lace where meaning colla ses% ( Powers +). ,t is neither object nor subject" the abject is situated, rather, at a lace before we entered into the symbolic order. (-n the symbolic order, see, in articular, the &acan module on sychose!ual develo ment.) As Kristeva uts it, %Abjection reserves what e!isted in the archaism of re.objectal relationshi , in the immemorial violence with which a body becomes se arated from another body in order to be% (Powers /0). The abject marks what Kristeva terms a % rimal re ression,% one that recedes the establishment of the subject$s relation to its objects of desire and of re resentation, before even the establishment of the o osition, conscious1unconscious. Kristeva refers, instead, to the moment in our sychose!ual develo ment when we established a border or se aration between human and animal, between culture and that which receded it. -n the level of archaic memory, Kristeva refers to the rimitive effort to se arate ourselves from the animal# %by way of abjection, rimitive societies have marked out a recise area of their culture in order to remove it from the threatening world of animals or animalism, which were imagined as re resentatives of se! and murder% (Powers /+./2). -n the level of our individual sychose!ual develo ment, the abject marks the moment when we se arated ourselves from the mother, when we began to recogni3e a boundary between %me% and other, between %me% and %(m)other.% ('ee the Kristeva (odule on 4sychose!ual )evelo ment.) As e! lained in the revious module, the abject is %a precondition of narcissism% (Powers /2), which is to say, a recondition for the narcissism of the mirror stage, which occur after we establish these rimal distinctions. The abject thus at once re resents the threat that meaning is breaking down and constitutes our reaction to such a breakdown# a reestablishment of our % rimal re ression.% The abject has to do with %what disturbs identity, system, order. *hat does not res ect borders, ositions, rules% ( Powers 5) and, so, can also include crimes like Auschwit3. 'uch crimes are abject recisely because they draw attention to the %fragility of the law% (Powers 5). (ore s ecifically, Kristeva associates the abject with the eru tion of the 6eal into our lives. ,n articular, she associates such a res onse with our rejection of death$s insistent materiality. -ur reaction to such abject material re.charges what is essentially a re.lingual res onse. Kristeva therefore is 7uite careful to differentiate knowledge of death or the meaning of death (both of which can e!ist within the symbolic order) from the traumatic e! erience of being actually confronted with the sort of materiality that traumatically shows you your own death#
9o. ). *hat we are confronted with when we e! erience the trauma of seeing a human cor se ( articularly the cor se of a friend or family member) is our own eventual death made al ably real. one joys in it <on en jouit=. rather. for Kristeva.) e! lores the lace of the abject. but what Kristeva means by such statements is that we are. Artaud. literature e! lores the way that language is structured over a lack. am at the border of my condition as a living being. does not signify death. According to Kristeva. This statement a ears arado!ical.linguistic confrontation with the abject.n the resence of signified death8a flat ence halogra h. rather. des ite everything. Kristeva reads the trace of a re. or the sickly. Abject% (Powers 5 ). As Kristeva uts it. metamor hosed. heterogeneous. . on the art of death. >iolently and ainfully. animal. seen without :od and outside of science. There. 'he . therefore. The transcendent or sublime. etc. The object of fear is. . fu33y. is the utmost of abjection. both on the far and near side of religion% (Powers /A). abject% (Powers +0A ). Kristeva associates this aesthetic e! erience of the abject. . .A wound with blood and us. with oetic catharsis# %an im ure rocess that rotects from the abject only by dint of being immersed in it% (Powers +? ). is really our effort to cover over the breakdowns (and subse7uent reassertion of boundaries) associated with the abject" and literature is the rivileged s ace for both the sublime and abject# %-n close ins ection. for instance8. which she sees as two ways of urifying the abject# %The various means of purifying the abject8the various catharses8make u the history of religions. no matter what its sociohistorical conditions might be. and end u with that catharsis ar e!cellence called art. closely tied both to religion and to art. one does not desire it. this defilement. . would understand. heights really stands in the lace of a much more rimal fear# the fear caused by the breakdown of any distinction between subject and object. the best modern literature ()ostoevsky. on the fragile border (borderline cases) where identities (subject1object. BCline. this shit are what life withstands. ermanently thrust aside in order to live. of any distinction between ourselves and the world of dead material objects. a lace where boundaries begin to breakdown. where we are confronted with an archaic s ace before such linguistic binaries as self1other or subject1object. react. The fear of. The abject must also be disguised from desire (which is tied u with the meaning. 4roust.) do not e!ist or only barely so8double. To e! erience the abject in literature carries with it a certain leasure but one that is 7uite different from the dynamics of desire. acrid smell of sweat. say.n hobia. a want. continually and re etitively drawn to the abject (much as we are re eatedly drawn to trauma in @reud$s understanding of re etition com ulsion). %The cor se. Kafka. The abject for Kristeva is. without makeu or masks.objectal states of drive and assumes all the misha s of drive as disa ointed desires or as desires diverted from their objects% (Powers 2. a substitute formation for the subject$s abject relation to drive. of decay.t is associated. etc. a moment that recedes the recognition of any actual object of fear# %The hobic object shows u at the lace of non. altered. refuse and cor ses show me what . hardly and with difficulty. in other words. These body fluids. Kristeva also associates the abject with jouissance# %-ne does not know it. (Powers 2) The cor se es ecially e!em lifies Kristeva$s conce t since it literali3es the breakdown of the distinction between subject and object that is crucial for the establishment of identity and for our entrance into the symbolic order.structures of the symbolic order). According to Kristeva. A assion% (Powers ? ). all literature is robably a version of the a ocaly se that seems to me rooted. or acce t. as in true theater.t is death infecting life. with both fear and jouissance.
in articular.rivileges oetry. because of oetry$s willingness to lay with grammar. meta hor and meaning. of the fear that edges u to it and runs along its edges% (Powers 2D ). thus laying bear the fact that language is at once arbitrary and limned with the abject fear of loss# %9ot a language of the desiring e!change of messages or objects that are transmitted in a social contract of communication and desire beyond want. . but a language of want.