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Additional resources for Abjection and Representation: An Exploration of Abjection in the Visual Arts, Film and Literature

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In life we seek experiences which affirm and reaffirm the stability of the self. This is part of the instinct of self-preservation. That notwithstanding, we also crave experiences which dissolve our sense of self, such as sex, which erode the boundaries separating one’s self from the other. Our continued fascination with certain art forms, such as the horror genre, reflects a desire to engage with the abject. One of the reasons for this is because confrontation with the abject is cathartic, in that it causes a release of a buildup of tension.

The semiotic, which has a very specific meaning for Kristeva,5 is ‘articulated by flow and marks’ (Kristeva, 1984, p. 40) associated with ‘rhythms or tones’ that are meaningful parts of language but that do not signify anything in a referential sense but are the result of bodily drives (Oliver, 2002, p. xiv). In this initial phase of psychic development the infant expresses itself through a series of non-verbal (and presymbolic) cues. Sounds such as babbles, cries and coos are familiar noises that are used to attract attention, often to bodily drives.

Kristeva shifts the focus to the maternal and its significance in the development of the social, where identity is constructed by the exclusion of the abject maternal body. During the time in which Kristeva was writing, Lacanian theory was widely accepted as a model of subjectivity in psychoanalysis. Lacan presents three distinct realms, or orders, of the psyche (a schema that he came up with in 1953): Real, Symbolic and Imaginary, which collectively present a way of understanding the functioning of the human psyche.

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