“[The abject] is simply a frontier, a repulsive gift that the Other, having become alter ego, drops so that the “I” does not disappear in it but finds, in that sublime alienation, a forfeited existence.” —  Julia Kristeva, The Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection

“If abomination is the lining of my symbolic being, “I” am therefore heterogeneous, pure and impure, and as such always potentially condemnable. I am from the very beginning subject to persecution as well as to revenge. The infinite meshing of expulsions and hazings, of divisions and inexorable, abominable reprisals is then thrown into gear. The system of abominations sets in motion the persecuting machine in which I assume the place of the victim in order to justify the purification that will separate me from that place as it will from any other, from all others.” —  Julia Kristeva, The Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection

“The rims of his eyelids were burning. A blow received straightens a man up and makes the body move forward, to return that blow, or a punch-to jump, to get a hard-on, to dance: to be alive. But a blow received may also cause you to bend over, to shake, to fall down, to die. When we see life, we call it beautiful. When we see death, we call it ugly. But it is more beautiful still to see oneself living at great speed, right up to the moment of death. Detectives, poets, domestic servants and priests rely on abjection. From it, they draw their power. It circulates in their veins. It nourishes them.” — Jean Genet, Querelle

“Why does corporeal waste, menstrual blood and excrement, or everything that is assimilated to them, from nail-clippings to decay, represent — like a metaphor that would have become incarnate — the objective frailty of symbolic order?” — Julia Kristeva, The Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection

“Loathing an item of food, a piece of filth, waste, or dung. The spasms and vomiting that protect me. The repugnance, the retching that thrusts me to the side and turns me away from defilement, sewage, and muck. The shame of comprimise, of being in the middle of treachery. The fascinated start that leads me toward and separates me from them.” —  Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection

“We may call it a border; abjection is above all ambiguity. Because, while releasing a hold, it does not radically cut off the subject from what threatens it—on the contrary, abjection acknowledges it to be in perpetual danger.” — Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection

“When the starry sky, a vista of open seas or a stained glass window shedding purple beams fascinate me, there is a cluster of meaning, of colors, of words, of caresses, there are light touches, scents, sighs, cadences that arise, shroud me, carry me away, and sweep me beyond the things that I see, hear, or think. The “sublime” object dissolves in the raptures of a bottomless memory. It is such a memory, which, from stopping point to stopping point, remembrance to remembrance, love to love, transfers that object to the refulgent point of the dazzlement in which I stray in order to be.” — Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection

“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 hold on to it. But simultaneously, just the same, that impetus, that spasm, that leap is drawn toward an inescapable boomerang, a vortex of summons and repulsion places the one haunted by it literally beside himself.” — 

Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection

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Powers of horror: an essay on abjection, Julia Kristeva


Powers of horror: an essay on abjection, Julia Kristeva

“A wound with blood & pus, or the sickly, acrid smell of sweat, of decay, does not signify death. In the presence of signified death—a flat encephalograph for instance—I would understand, react, or accept. No, as in true theater, without make-up or masks, refuse & corpses show me what I permanently thrust aside in order to live. These body fluids, this defilement, this shit are what life withstands, hardly & with difficulty, on the part of death.” — Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, 1982