Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection (European Perspectives) (European Perspectives Series)
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explores the place of the abject, a place where boundaries begin to break down, where people are confronted with an archaic space before such linguistic binaries as self/other or subject/object. He argues that one way to create a monster is to make sure that it jams categories, for example, living/dead. Although she does pull a lot on Freudian theory (which I don’t always agree with), she provides plenty of helpful insights into understanding abjection. As Kristeva puts it, "The corpse, seen without God and outside of science, is the utmost of abjection. And then, to a certain extent, she turns it around with an account of horror and prohibition in the Old Testament, how that relates to Judaeo-Christian and Platonic concepts.
The abject marks what Kristeva terms a "primal repression," one that precedes the establishment of the subject's relation to its objects of desire and of representation, before even the establishment of the opposition between consciousness and the unconscious. In theory this simply means that Kristeva uses her personal experience, and the expressed experiences of others to get some idea of what the abject really is. She closes her essay by noting that the usefulness of studying the abject can be found in its immense political and religious influence over the centuries. After reading some of the reviews here I was a little worried that I was not going to like this "essay". The last third of this book has the most beautiful writing (in translation, anyway) but for that go to Kristeva on Proust, cuz here she just does it on Celine the Nazi.Psychoanalytic thinkers would likely locate the problem somewhere in that zone where the sexual overlaps with the parental, aka "the ick field.
The fear of, say, heights really stands in the place of a much more primal fear: the fear caused by the breakdown of any distinction between subject and object, of any distinction between ourselves and the world of dead material objects (reference page? What we are confronted with when we experience the trauma of seeing a human corpse (particularly the corpse of a friend or family member) is our own eventual death made palpably real. But what batter subject than one whose relationship to waffles commplicates the clean subject/object structure of selfhood and communication, both sides implicit with auto-destruction?It’s interesting to consider how many bodies without souls emerge within the horror and gothic genres: vampires, zombies, robots, etc. That which I understood and agreed with were so eloquently put I kept exclaiming "That's how it really is!
After you expelled the spit, it became other; but a special kind of other, an other that has been abjected. For one, the attraction of adolescents to horror—and let's face it, they are the primary horror genre demographic for films and to an extent for literature—is something I would like to see her examine, and for that matter, she could even look into the comparative biology of mammals to be either repulsed or attracted to various forms of danger. The author shares some fascinating ideas and insight into abjection and how it relates to women in horror, what society and film makers are saying through their stories about women in horror, and how this reflects contemporary culture and society's attitudes to women through the ages.
Kristeva is one of the leading voices in contemporary French criticism, on a par with such names as Genette, Foucault, Greimas and others. and present threats to the subject on the level of The Real like for real, a lesson learned long before science. This statement appears paradoxical, but what Kristeva means by such statements is that we are, despite everything, continually and repetitively drawn to the abject (much as we are repeatedly drawn to trauma in Freud's understanding of repetition compulsion).