Julia Kristeva's Powers Of Horror

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Gothic literature draws heavily on the influences of the Romantic Movement in its appreciation of nature, and the use of sublime imagery is prevalent in the literature du jour, and is presented as the diametric opposite to what Julia Kristeva calls the abject in her 1980 work, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. Abjection is the human reaction (such as terror or horror) to a threatened loss of meaning when confronted by the loss of distinction between the subject and the object: the moment at which the subject (the Cartesian “I”) is confronted by the object (such as ‘a wound with blood or pus’ (Kristeva, 1980 p.3), the sickened or horrified emotion which arises is because of the lack of division between the two; thus, the abject arises when confronting the self/other divide becomes problematic. The exploration of societal and physical…show more content…
Kristeva defines the abject as the ‘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’ (p. 1). The abject is the physical and psychological manigestation of our confrontation with problematic boundaries. The zenith of abjection for Kristeva is the corpse – the embodiment of our mortality which faces us to face death: ‘the corpse… is cesspool and death… a wound with blood and pus, or the sickly, acrid smell of sweat, of decay, does not signify death… refuse and corpses show me what I permanently thrust aside in order to live. These body fluids, this defilement, this shit are what life withstands, hardly and with difficulty, on the part of death. There I am at the border of my condition as a living being. My body extricates itself, as being alive, from that border’ (p. 3). Death pervades life as a one face of a two-sided coin; we are aware of our mortality, but violent confrontation – as with a corpse – inspires

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