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Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection (European Perspectives) (European Perspectives Series)

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Kristeva is one of the leading voices in contemporary French criticism, on a par with such names as Genette, Foucault, Greimas and others. What amuses me about Lacanians, especially the main one, Jacques Lacan, is that they (and especially he) will go to great lengths trying to mimic the rhetoric and rigor of science but not notice the real thing when it's close enough to smell. In phobia, Kristeva reads the trace of a pre-linguistic confrontation with the abject, a moment that precedes the recognition of any actual object of fear: "The phobic object shows up at the place of non-objectal states of drive and assumes all the mishaps of drive as disappointed desires or as desires diverted from their objects". At times I felt like crying, especially after having dragged myself through fifty pages in six to eight hours and I felt like I'd understood nothing at all. She later turns to the work of Louis-Ferdinand Celine, and the publication of 'Journey to the End of the Night' as an almost ideal example of the purgative, artistic expression of the abject.

Because you can see yourself as part of an accident, you’re drawn to it even though you dread the thought. On the level of our individual psychosexual development, the abject marks the moment when we separated ourselves from the mother, when we began to recognize a boundary between "me" and other, between "me" and "(m)other. 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. She talks about the horror genre from a feminist and female perspective, suitable for all discussion about horror in general and women in horror.

You have spit in your mouth all the time and frequently swallow it; but, by expelling it from your body, you make it an object apart from you; sort of. 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.

That which I understood and agreed with were so eloquently put I kept exclaiming "That's how it really is! 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). I had never seen an amputee before and I was horrified in the same way you might be if you slowed down to look at an accident. Religion, according to Kristevea, is a natural response to the abject, for if one truly experiences the abject, they are prone to engage in all manners of perverse and anti-social behaviors. By forcing Carrie to confront and exist with the abject (the blood), she is also forced to experience abjection.Kristeva's understanding of the "abject" provides a helpful term to contrast to Lacan's objet petit a (or the "object - cause of desire"). You had no trouble with it then and you would have no trouble drinking the water before you spit in it, even though the water was not a part of you, an other. Take the usual sense of the gross, the repulsive, the degraded in the abject, haul along the Latin roots for "throw away" (or "make distant" or "define as other than yourself") and name yourself--the thrower--"the subject" and we're well on our way to getting at this book's premise. I should make it clear as well that I'm no expert, and I certainly have not read this book in the original language as my French extends no further than the edges of a menu. Until then we are an unboundaried everything everywhere, undifferentiated from all sounds, sights, smells, skins, sheets, and poop.

We did all the usual tourist things, but what I remember best was my first sight of a man with a missing leg, struggling to get through the subway turnstile. Few original ideas, but plenty of interesting references to diverse sources (Freudian psychoanalysis, the Bible, anthropology, semiology, modern literature) to which Kristeva's essay is too heavily indebted to be regarded as a truly groundbreaking work. It was good when it turned you away from your mother’s breast and made you interested in eating solid food, but when it gets you repulsed by anyone with a big belly, including yourself, the side effects start to outweigh the benefits.

The abject thus at once represents the threat that meaning is breaking down and constitutes our reaction to such a breakdown: a reestablishment of our "primal repression. Please accept my humblest apologies for bringing that up again and, while I'm at it, for seeming to condescend or instruct here. Important to this book and all others in its field is the idea that the identity of things is not just maintained by what they are, but by what they are not. However, I was at least inquisitive, she got me thinking, even if some of her text did go about putting much strain on my grey matter. 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.

In the epic journey you are on from being an egg, indistinguishable from your mother, to an adult, you are becoming someone who can change things to suit you. These body fluids, this defilement, this shit are what life withstands, hardly and with difficulty, on the part of death. The problems abjection causes are really the problems that are created whenever we only have two categories in which to sort things. So the subject/object thing is trembly with the tension between two dangers: to seal off into a regressive narcism, or to overidentify with scattered others for a fragmented ego. A renowned psychoanalyst, philosopher, and linguist, she has written dozens of books spanning semiotics, political theory, literary criticism, gender and sex, and cultural critique, as well as several novels and autobiographical works, published in English translation by Columbia University Press.Intolerance and prejudice, narrow-mindedness and bigotry, prudishness and hypocritical self-righteousness all have their roots in abjection. 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. The Imaginary is that mental phase, or that facet of conscious selfhood's structure, where we have representations in our minds of the things in the world around us, of things that are "other," but which have not been totally subsumed by and defined within the context of social consensus, language, law, science, etc.

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