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Creed monstrous feminine and Tomie
Transcript of Creed monstrous feminine and Tomie
“Horror and the Monstrous-feminine: An Imaginary Abjection”
Julia Kristeva's abjection
Ambiguity of abjection
Horror movies and abjection
The place of the abject is 'the place where meaning collapses' (p 2), the place where I am not. The abject threatens life; it must be 'radically excluded' (p 2) from the place of the living subject, propelled away from the body and deposited on the other side of an imaginary border which separates the self from that which threatens the self.
The body protects itself from bodily wastes such as shit, blood, urine and pus by ejecting these substances just as it expels food that, for whatever reason, the subject finds loathsome. The body extricates itself from them and from the place where they fall, so that it might continue to live
"abjection is not something of which the subject can ever feel free-it is always there, beckoning the self to take up its place, the place where meaning collapses.The subject, constructed in/through language, through a desire for meaning, is also spoken by the abject, the place of meaninglessness thus, the subject is constantly beset by abjection which fascinates desire but which must be repelled for fear of self-annihilation. The crucial point is that abjection is always ambiguous."
Abjection collapses boundaries
the child struggles to break free but
the mother is reluctant to release it
She is the generative mother, the pre-phallic mother, the being who exists prior to knowledge of the phallus (=male power).
Although the subject must exclude the abject, it must, nevertheless, be tolerated, for that which threatens to destroy life also helps to define life.
Further, the activity of exclusion is necessary to guarantee that the subject take up his/her proper place in relation to the symbolic.
"To each ego its object, to each superego its abject."
that which will satisfy a need;a significant person or a thing that is the object or target of another's feelings or drives
incorporates the values and morals
of society which one learned from one's
parents and others; controls the id impulses
(aggression/sexual drives etc.); turns ego from realistic goals to strive for perfection
The ultimate in abjection is the corpse.
Such wastes drop so that I might live, until, from loss to loss, nothing remains in me and my entire body falls beyond the limit — cadere, cadaver.
If dung signifies the other side of the border, the place where I am not and which permits me to be, the corpse, the most sickening of wastes, is a border that has encroached upon everything. It is no longer I who expel. 'I' is expelled, (pp 3-4)
Abjection allures and repels
The abject must be constantly exorcised (among others, by means of rituals)
Horrors construct maternal figure
as an abject
Kristeva argues that the maternal body becomes a site of conflicting desires. 'Here, drives hold sway and constitute a strange space that I shall name, after Plato, a chora, areceptacle' (p 14). The position of the child is rendered even more unstable because, while the mother retains a close hold over the child, it can serve to authenticate her existence - an existence which needs validation because of her problematic relation to the symbolic realm.
By refusing to relinquish her hold on her child,the mother prevents it from taking up its proper place in relation to the Symbolic.
Mother - nature
Father - symbolic law
The function of these religious rituals (of defilement) is to ward off the subject's fear of his very own identity sinking irretrievably into the mother, (p 64)
(a universe without shame)
(a universe of shame)
1. MOTHER OF 'CHORA'
2. ARCHAIC MOTHER
This archaic figure is somewhat different from the mother of the semiotic chora, posed by Kristeva, in that the latter is the pre-Oedipal mother who exists in relation to the family and the symbolic order.
the generative, parthenogenetic mother— the ancient archaic figure who gives birth to all living things
What is most interesting about the mythological figure of woman as the source of all life (a role taken over by the male god of monotheistic religions) is that, within patriarchal signifying practices, particularly the horror film, she is reconstructed and represented as a negative figure, one associated with the dread of the generative mother seen only as the abyss, the monstrous vagina, the origin of all life threatening to re-absorb what it once birthed.
'Fear of the uncontrollable generative mother repels me from the body; I give up cannibalism because abjection (of the mother) leads me toward respect for the body of the other, my fellow man, my brother,' (pp 78-79)
The archaic mother may be represented by
the mysterious black hole which signifies female genitalia as a monstrous sign which threatens to give birth to equally horrific offspring as well as threatening to incorporate everything in its path.
This is the generative archaic mother, constructedwithin patriarchal ideology as the primeval 'black hole'.
Unlike the female genitalia, the womb cannot be constructed as a 'lack' in relation to the penis. Thewomb is not the site of castration anxiety. Rather, the womb signifies 'fullness' or 'emptiness' but always it is its own point of reference
The archaic mother is present in all horror films as the blackness of extinction-death. The desires and fears invoked by the image of the archaic mother, as a force that threatens to re-incorporate what it once it gave birth to...
The desire to return to the orignal oneness of things, to return to the womb, is primarily a desire for non-differentiation. If, as Georges Bataille argues, life signifies discontinuity and separateness, and death signifies continuity and non-differentiation, then the desire for and attraction of death suggests also a desire to return to the state of original oneness with the mother.
In this sense, the confrontation with death as represented in the horror film, gives rise to a terror of selfdisintegration, of losing one's self or ego ...
In contrast to the conventional viewing structures working within other variants of the classic text, the horror film does not constantly work to suture the spectator into the viewing processes. Instead, an unusual phenomenon arises whereby the suturing processes are momentarily undone while the horrific image on the screen challenges the viewer to run the risk of continuing to look.
The 'fifth look'
Here, I refer to those moments in the horror film when the spectator, unable to stand the images of horror unfolding before his/her eyes, is forced to look away, to not-look, to look anywhere but at the screen. Strategies of identification are temporarily broken, as the spectator is constructed in the place of horror, the place where the sight/site can no longer be endured, the place where pleasure in looking is transformed into pain and the spectator is punished for his/her voyeuristic desires.
1. the look of the camera that records the events
2. the look of the audience at the film
3. the look of the characters within the film at each other
4. (Willemen) an imagined look experienced by the audience as a sense it is seen in the process of seeing
MALE MASOCHISM IN THE HORROR FILM
Whenever male bodies are represented as monstrous in the horror film, they assume characteristics usually associated with the female body: they experience a blood cycle, change shape, bleed, give birth ... Traditionally, the male body has been viewed as norm; the female body a deviation. (118)
(Freud): the essence of masochistic phantasy in men is that they place the male in a 'characteristically female position'
"The abject is placed on the side of the feminine and the maternal in opposition to the paternal symbolic, the domain of law and language. The prototype of the abject body is the maternal body because of its link with the natural world signified in its lack of 'corporeal integrity': it secretes; it changes shape, grows, and swells; it gives birth ... Such actions violate the boundary of the skinwhich should remain smooth ..."
"in the bizarre attempt to usurp female reproductive powers, the male monster of science can only create monsters" (129)
Tomie - monstrous feminine
Tomie as her self and her own abject?
Powers of Horror
Food loathing is perhaps the most elementary and most archaic form of abjection. When the eyes see or the lips touch that skin on the surface of milk – harmless, thin as a sheet of cigarette paper, pitiful as a nail paring – I experience a gagging sensation and, still farther down, spasms in the stomach, the belly; and all the organs shrivel up the body, provoke tears and bile, increase heartbeat, cause forehead and hands to perspire. Along with sight-clouding dizziness, nausea makes me balk at that milk cream, separates me from the mother and father who proffer it. “I” want none of that element, sign of their desire; “I” do not want to listen, “I” do not assimilate it, “I” expel it. But since the food is not an “other” for “me,” who am only in their desire, I expel myself, I spit myself out, I abject myself within the same motion through which “I” claim to establish myself.
(Kristeva 1982: 3)
Another phenomenon that sets off abjection is the presence of a cadaver. Here the very border between life and death has been broken, with death seeming to “infect” the body. The corpse is the abject reminder that I will cease to be, of “that elsewhere that I imagine beyond the present.”The presence of a corpse violates my own borders:
The corpse is the abject reminder that I will cease to be, of “that elsewhere that I imagine beyond the present” (ibid.).
The corpse does not represent something, as a symbol might; it is a direct “infection” of my own living: “It is death infecting life. Abject.
The Abject Mother
The “subject” discovers itself as the impossible separation/identity of the maternal body. It hates that body but only because it can’t be free of it. That body, the body without border, the body out of which this abject subject came, is impossible.(ibid.)
The child is in a double-bind: a longing for narcissistic union with its first love and a need to renounce this union in order to become a subject. It must renounce a part of itself – insofar as it is still one with the mother – in order to become a self.
Kristeva’s abject differs from Freud’s repressed. Freud thought that many of the subject’s desires had to be denied, submerged in the unconscious, in order for subjectivity and civilization to develop. Freud addresses the continual possibility of the “return of the repressed,” but, so long as it doesn’t return, it is well out of sight. There is no such luck with the abject. It remains on the periphery of consciousness, a looming presence, as we’ve seen is the case with filth and death.
Noelle McAfee, "Julia Kristeva"
LITERATURE AND AFFLICTION
Literature, in Kristeva’s view, helps the author and the reader workthrough some of the maladies that afflict their souls.
These afflictions include abjection; depression, also known as melancholia; and various neuroses and psychoses. In psychoanalytic terms, surviving these trials involves working through conflicts so that the subject is not doomed to act them out. Literature offers a way to help work through what afflicts us. In addition to displaying the symptoms of some kind of malady of the soul, literature can be cathartic.
By suggesting that literature is [abjection’s] privileged signifier, I wish to point out that, far from being a minor, marginal activity in our culture, as a general consensus seems to have it, this kind of literature, or even literature as such, represents the ultimate coding of our crises, of our most intimate and most serious apocalypses. Hence its nocturnal power.
Literature“may also involve not an ultimate resistance to but an unveiling of the abject: an elaboration, a discharge, and a hollowing out of abjection through the Crisis of the Word” (ibid.).
The Body Politic
We borrow our desires from others. Far from being autonomous, our desire for a certain object is always provoked by the desire of another person — the model — for this same object. This means that the relationship between the subject and the object is not direct: there is always a triangular relationship of subject, model, and object. Through the object, one is drawn to the model, whom Girard calls the mediator: it is in fact the model who is sought
If two individuals desire the same thing, there will soon be a third, then a fourth. This process quickly snowballs. Since from the beginning the desire is aroused by the other (and not by the object) the object is soon forgotten and the mimetic conflict transforms into a general antagonism. At this stage of the crisis the antagonists will no longer imitate each other's desires for an object, but each other's antagonism. They wanted to share the same object, but now they want to destroy the same enemy.
So, a paroxysm of violence would tend to focus on an arbitrary victim and a unanimous antipathy would, mimetically, grow against him. The brutal elimination of the victim would reduce the appetite for violence that possessed everyone a moment before, and leaves the group suddenly appeased and calm. The victim lies before the group, appearing simultaneously as the origin of the crisis and as the one responsible for this miracle of renewed peace. He becomes sacred, that is to say the bearer of the prodigious power of defusing the crisis and bringing peace back.
Girard believes this to be the genesis of archaic religion, of ritual sacrifice as the repetition of the original event, of myth as an account of this event, of the taboos that forbid access to all the objects at the origin of the rivalries that degenerated into this absolutely traumatizing crisis. This religious elaboration takes place gradually over the course of the repetition of the mimetic crises whose resolution brings only a temporary peace. The elaboration of the rites and of the taboos constitutes a kind of empirical knowledge about violence.
Mimetic violence and scapegoat mechanism
1. a person or group made to bear the blame for others or to suffer in their place.
2. Chiefly Biblical. a goat let loose in the wilderness on Yom Kippur after the high priest symbolically laid the sins of the people on its head. Lev. 16:8,10,26.
Tomie as mother, daughter, and a lover?
The triangular nature of this process, between model/mediator and disciple at the base of the triangle, and the object of desire at the apex, is explored by Girard in Deceit, Desire and the Novel (1965). Here Girard describes the competition that develops, as well as the consequences of the mimetic model.
The impulse toward the object is ultimately an impulse toward the mediator; in internal mediation this impulse is checked by the mediator himself since he desires, or perhaps possesses, the object. Fascinated by his model, the disciple inevitably sees, in the mechanical obstacle which he puts in his way, proof of the ill will borne him. Far from declaring himself a faithful vassal, he thinks only of repudiating the bonds of mediation. But these bonds arc stronger than ever, for the mediator's apparent hostility does not diminish his prestige but instead augments it. ... The subject is torn between two opposite feelings toward his model--the most submissive reverence and the most intense malice. This is the passion we call hatred.
Only someone who prevents us from satisfying a desire which he himself has inspired in us is truly an object of hatred. The person who hates first hates himself for
the secret admiration concealed by his hatred
(Girard 1965, 10-11)
As Arnold and Sylvester (examples) compete with each other for the grant, their attention shifts to blocking the other from achieving the goal. Sylvester, once the good student, now finds himself hating his mentor in the heat of desire, not simply for the object, but to be the victor. But by this point the disciple is not simply the disciple and the model is no longer simply the model. Once this level of intensity is experienced by both Sylvester and Dr. Arnold, Dr. Arnold sees Sylvester as becoming an equal, who now is transformed into a rival, as well as a double of himself. Both are struggling with the internal conflict of loving and hating the other. This dissonance they also want to dissolve, which they believe they can ameliorate by eliminating the other. Both Sylvester and Dr. Arnold are now contemplating the destruction of their doubles, thus at the same time, the destruction of themselves. Once the level of conflictual mimesis or internal mediation, is reached, because of the process just described, violence may erupt between model and rival. However, because they are "mutually intimidated and identical", they rediscover the object of their original desire and "
deflect their destructive energy from one another onto a substitute"
(Wallace 1994, 10).