– Kristeva?s Theory Of Abjection Applied To A Fragment Essay, Research Paper
According to Kristeva?s theory, in order to become a subject in the symbolic realm it is necessary to reject/abject that which gave us our existence – namely, the mother. Moreover, within patriarchal cultures women are reduced to the maternal function and therefore women, maternity and femininity are abjected along with the maternal function. ?This misplaced abjection is one way to account for women?s oppression and degradation within patriarchal cultures.? For Kristeva, the process is helped along by what she calls the ?Cult of the Virgin,? meaning the Virgin Mary – and so the lingering, stationary image of the defaced statue seems a good place to begin. As I will discuss, it is an important image precisely because it takes the deeply-rooted patriarchal model for womanhood and reverses it.
In the biblical stories, the Virgin is impregnated by God. Thus ?the ?primal scene? [of conception] and the mother?s jouissance that might accompany it? are done away with. This fantasy of immaculate conception protects the child from facing a reality ?that is too much? to bear?: that of being excluded from the ?primal scene? that brought about its existence. So, in a strange fit of pre-oedipal, pre-mirror stage jealousy the child excludes the mother?s jouissance from the fantasy of the Virgin birth, thereby condemning female sexuality to the maternal function alone.
The image itself is not abject in quite the same way as, say, Regan masturbating viciously with a crucifix is abject. However, it has power because it violently foregrounds Mary?s sexuality, when she wasn?t really meant to have any. The meaning of the figure?s posture is anchored somewhat by the huge, jutting black breasts and penis that the demon has stuck on. Her wide-open arms can no longer signify total acceptance and submission before God, but almost a sense of collusion in the sacrilege – as if she were saying, ?Look at me now!? Of course, the statue is white to emphasise her (former) chastity. Her new-found sexual organs are all misshapen and sharply-pointed, like weapons – like sexuality turning from submission to attack. There is what appears to be blood over her hands and robes which lends the image a brutal sadomasochistic quality, precursory to the infamous crucifix scene. The fact the statue now has both a penis and breasts confuses her gender, masculinizing her without taking away all of her femininity. Most importantly, her maternal function is overruled – and all that remains is an exaggeratedly militant, and thoroughly abject, version of jouissance. Abject things always defy definition. They are ?in-between? things. In this respect, aside from simply looking hideous, Mary – the impossible ideal for Christian womanhood – is rendered abject, along with the rest of her sex. The mid-shot seems to focalise the priest who makes the discovery because the preceding shot is a close-up on his mortified face, and the only accompanying sound is his gasp. On its own the defaced statue would have little power, but given the fact we see it through a priest?s eyes, even unbelievers are encouraged to feel the extent of the sacrilege. The importance of the church setting and the priest?s orthodox Catholic robes cannot be overstated because they represent patriarchal law, which is the law of the superego. Earlier on, Chris MacNeil tells the mob of protesting students that “if you want to effect any change, you have to do it within the system.” But the essence of abjection is that it does not respect ?system, identity, order.? It is engaged in a permanent rebellion against the laws the superego is desperate to enforce.
?On the edge of non-existence and hallucination, of a reality that, if I acknowledge it, annihilates me. There, abject and abjection are my safeguards. The primers of my culture.? Kristeva?s point is that the very foundations of Western civilisation are laid on repression of the abject. The only problem is that repression, ?the constant watchman,? occasionally relaxes. Thus, the whole statue incident can be seen as a metaphor for the disobedience of abjection. As every single person has something inside them that hates order and demands chaos, the demon?s possession of Regan provides a neat metaphor for the symbolic order?s perilous and permanent closeness to destruction.
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