Themes of Julia Kristeva’s Abjection  (Roundtable)

Comparative Literature

Elia Jordan (Regis University-Colorado)

Abjection can be summarized to mean, the lowest debasement to the highest degree (Oxford Languages definition). Immediately, there is a wide range of potential meaning, so what is it exactly?

The abject does not consistently take concrete or permanent form. Yet, it is also not nothing, it is something, but it is not always anything that can be distinctly signifiable. It is in motion, elusive, constantly moving around and through the body of the one who speaks. It arises as a force where the speaking being(s) violently reject an ‘other,’ or is ‘othered.’ The speaking being is then trapped in between these two powers (Kristeva 70). All the disoriented speaking being can do is try and demarcate itself, declare itself, and reorient the body from this dizzy spin with language and speech. This “dancing on a volcano” is both intentionally and unintentionally choreographed from everything through the physical body, the religious imagination, psychological development, culture, and politics (Kristeva 210). Kristeva claims that art and literature will be the best signifier for the abject if or when religion and politics become obsolete (5, 17, 207-208). Language and literature are the best containers that allow the imagination to both talk about and navigate through and around these unnamable forces. If Kristeva has made nothing else clear, it is that lifting the veil of the abject is to gaze into the vacuum of the abyss and one is hurled towards this boarder either with fully embodied ecstasy or anguish (210).

These and related themes will be closely examined in what promises to be a vibrant round-table session of scholarly discussions.

Kristeva, Julia. Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. Columbia University Press, 1982.

Julia Kristeva's abjection in language, literature, and art. Themes included but not limited to, the physical body, the religious imagination, psychological development, culture, and politics.