Marked by affect: Drawing out Julia Kristeva's performance of abjection

Cynthia L Fortner, Purdue University


Julia Kristeva informs her perspectives of psychoanalysis with a model of linguistic development that clearly considers the entry into language as one of the formative psychodynamic constructs. However, prior to this entrance into symbolic language use is a previous, sensitive, formative developmental moment of abjection wherein an infant differentiates herself or himself from maternal care, and recognizes psychologically that a prior state of symbiosis no longer exists. Any references to abjection, or to an abject state of being, refer back to this initial unbridgeable moment of abject division and loss. But, as psychoanalysis will have us perform, we replay these developmental milestones throughout life at various similar moments, such as in loss, joy, sadness, love, emptiness, or depression. However, accompanied by this initial abject division is an acquisition of subjectivity, selfhood, and realizable individuality. I consider and argue throughout this dissertation that all replayed moments of abject encounters are accompanied by the feeling of loss and gain. One does not exist without the other. That we experience feelings in the performance of replayed abjection calls attention to Kristeva's concept of affect, which is much more than emotion, as multiple valences, simultaneously both positive and negative, interconnect. It is the realization and often learned recognition of affect that points toward the replaying of abject identification, which, again, is analyzable as moments of loss and gain. Kristeva terms these affectively charged moments as abject loss and jouissance recognition. Throughout this dissertation, I will develop five individual arenas for revealing replayed abjection involving narrative revolt, media and visual culture, normative gender scripting, pedagogical choices, and cognitive production as these relate to their affective marks, which I define as annotations. These are by no means the only arenas within which Kristeva replays affective engagement and abject confrontation. I argue that affect indicates perceptual revision, but we can also learn to recognize affective valences, particularly when written language and lived culture are the texts under consideration in addition to visual images.




Bay, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Motion pictures|Womens studies|Rhetoric|Composition

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