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No Beast is there without glimmer of infinity,
No eye so vile nor abject that brushes not
Against lightning from on high, now tender, now fierce.
--Victor Hugo, La Légende des siècles



The term Abjection literally means "the state of being cast out." In conteporary critical theory, it is often used to describe the state of often-marginalized groups, such as women or homosexuals. This term originated in the works of Julia Kristeva. Often, the term space of abjection is also used, referring to a space that abjected things or beings inhabit. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abjection [Feb 2005]

Julia Kristeva [...]

Essai sur l'abjection (1980), on the topic of narcissism and abjection in their psychoanalytic, philosophical and linguistic implications.

Powers of Horror

  1. Powers of Horror (1980) - Julia Kristeva [Amazon.com]

    Powers of Horror: an Essay on Abjection is a 1982 book by Julia Kristeva. The book is an extensive treatise on the subject of abjection and all it entails. Starting with Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan's theories, Kristeva delivers a comprehensive look at horror, marginalization, castration, the phallic signifier, the "I/Not I" dichotomy, the Oedipal complex, exile, and other concepts appropriate to feminist criticism and queer theory. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powers_of_Horror [Apr 2006]

Julia Kristeva, An Essay on Abjection

[Note: This is (most of) chapter one of Kristeva's book, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, trans. Leon S. Roudiez (New York: Columbia UP, 1982). As you'll see, Kristeva's criticism is heavily inflected by Lacan and by French Deconstruction. I've added explanatory notes (in square brackets) when necessary. Kristeva, by the way, was born in Bulgaria and is considered one of the most influential contemporary French theorists.]


  1. There looms, within abjection, one of those violent, dark revolts of being, directed against a threat that seems to emanate from an exorbitant outside or inside, ejected beyond the scope of the possible, the tolerable, the thinkable. It lies there, quite close, but it cannot be assimilated. It beseeches, worries, and fascinates desire, which, nevertheless, does not let itself be seduced. Apprehensive, desire turns aside; sickened, it rejects. A certainty protects it from the shameful - a certainty of which it is proud holds on to it. But simultaneously, just the same, that impetus, that spasm, that leap is drawn toward an elsewhere as tempting as it is condemned. Unflaggingly, like an inescapable boomerang, a vortex of summons and repulsion places the one haunted by it literally beside himself.

    --http://social.chass.ncsu.edu/wyrick/debclass/krist.htm, accessed Feb 2004

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