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

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

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

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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. Kristeva, like most of the French theorists of her era, is somewhat hit or miss: at times, as in her analysis of Proust or her work on the early novel, she's amazing. As a post-modernist thinker, Bulgarian-French philosopher Julia Kristeva believes that the only way one can relate to or understand the world is through the medium of language, and anything that is completely non-linguistic is literally unintelligible. He argues that one way to create a monster is to make sure that it jams categories, for example, living/dead. Kristeva's understanding of the "abject" provides a helpful term to contrast to Lacan's objet petit a (or the "object - cause of desire").

Because you can see yourself as part of an accident, you’re drawn to it even though you dread the thought.To experience the abject in literature carries with it a certain pleasure but one that is quite different from the dynamics of desire. A thing's thingness must be delimited, and that boundary that excludes what it is not is a substantial element of its identity. Julia Kristeva is professor emerita of linguistics at the Université de Paris VII and author of many acclaimed works. Kristeva is one of the leading voices in contemporary French criticism, on a par with such names as Genette, Foucault, Greimas and others. do not exist or only barely so—double, fuzzy, heterogeneous, animal, metamorphosed, altered, abject".

Kristeva also associates the abject with jouissance: "One does not know it, one does not desire it, one joys in it [on en jouit]. Semiotics has a pretty cut-and-dried conceptualization of the sign: (Object--mental image of object--Sound Image--standing for object [heard word]--Visual Version of Sound Image [print/writing]--motor skill representation, spoken and written). Therefore, abjection is an operation of the human psyche by which the subject creates and maintains identity by repelling or rejecting anything that threatens its boundaries. 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. 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.Kristeva in this book exposes the tenuously constructed and easily dismantled nature of the self and takes the reader to a place outside of the cultural security of linguistic definitions of societal being, a place where markers of certainty can disappear and everything is in a state of flux. I could see how people could mix this up because of the fact that filth and impurity can absolutely be counted as abject. Another reviewer mentioned that once you get past this middle but, the good stuff comes back and her critiques become as brilliant as Sontag's--I've never read Sontag, but exploring her work sounds like a better use of my time at this point.

Then she takes it to even higher heights with this simultaneously adulating and excoriating criticism of Louis-Ferdinand Céline, and it's one of the few pieces of literary criticism that reaches the brilliance of a Susan Sontag or a Walter Benjamin. 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.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. What is abject is not my correlative, which, providing me with someone or something else as support, would allow me to be more or less detached and autonomous. In Powers of Horror , Julia Kristeva offers an extensive and profound consideration of the nature of abjection. Oh but here's the deal: the gross juicy parts that should reside on the inside this-side boundary of the Me/Other demarcation are realized as like totally icky Other (who is not grossed out by their own guts, snot, pus, etc?

According to Kristeva, the best modern literature ( Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Marcel Proust, Jorge Luis Borges, Antonin Artaud, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Franz Kafka, etc.That said, she could have taken things further: the book is slim in translation (I've yet to see the French original but have no reason to believe it was longer) and there's ample ground she could still cover. However, I would quite appreciate anybody to respond with a summary of anything interesting in this book, as I found very little; and I'm very intrigued to find this book got such a high rating from so many readers. 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. When mentally feeling my way about such matters, I like to switch stuff out: (a version of Roland Barthes' "commutation test") imagine pious believers bowing before a grand plinth holding up a revered brown coil of crap, or tourists lined up in an American museum to look at glass boxes containing the preserved vomit of our Founding Fathers.

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