tracing Julia Kristeva’s notion of the ‘abject’ through specific philosophers and their views on art
Final Writing Assignment – Due 12/5/2015
10 pages double-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman font
Texts: Covers all course texts but you may allot ‘more’/‘less’ discussion space to readings depending on how you focus your essay.
For Kristeva it all comes do the pure and the impure. In the late 20th century, when Kristeva is writing The Powers of Horror, we see this opposition in the modernist claim to pure form and the postmodernist repudiation thereof. To go from that context to the bottom of her question, Kristeva drills all the way down to the pure forms of the Platonic Idea as opposed to the “corruptions” of mimetic representation. She insists (at the start of Powers) that she is working in the phenomenological method, and in many ways this approach allows her focus on the ‘abject’ to reflect a broader deconstructive concentration operating in and between all our readings.
In Derrida we find intertextual extensions of Nietzsche’s critique of Western metaphysics and Heidegger’s concept of “erasure.” Then, about fifteen years later, we find that Kristeva has dug to the bottom of abjection by way of the Greeks, the Judeo/Christian divide, and the modern novel. Nietzsche had taken a similar path, except that in his case Wagner stands in for the novel. (In the Genealogy we see the tracing of morals in terms of Judeo/Christian Ressentiment – think of evil, sin, guilt as ‘abject’; and in The Birth of Tragedy we see the pure & the impure as per the Apollonian & the Dionysian.) All told, the extension of certain ideas involves further levels of genealogical exploration, applying new methodologies and focal concerns along the way. Indeed, we might go so far as to say that Kristeva is following the instructions for phenomenological method as laid out in Heidegger’s reformulation of Nietzsche’s critical methodology, i.e., the ‘Introduction’ to Being and Time.
To perform the same operation as per our course Reading List, please trace the course of abjection as a history of the relation between pure form and its other. For us this relation begins in the one between the Platonic Forms and Mimesis (imitation). To get back to that beginning please travel down from Kristeva through the following layers: Derrida, Heidegger, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Schiller, Burke, Winckelmann, and Aristotle’s insistence on catharsis as the moral justification of mimetic representation (catharsis as the aesthetic purification of the impure). That would leave you, finally, with Book X of The Republic – which, among other things, is about what Kristeva would describe as “the inside [State] and the outside [exile]” aspects of abjection.
A couple of provisos:
1) If you’re not quite sure what to do with Heidegger’s Being & Time, that is because his “The Origin of the Work of Art” and “The Question Concerning Technology” are perhaps more germane to the question. You are welcome to use those essays or you can approach Heidegger in terms of your method (as per Being & Time). But I would note that aletheia is itself about the ‘seen’ and the ‘covered over’, the pure and the impure of (contingent) truth, and the phenomenological method is about revealing the distinction between the two (see BT sect. 44 and ‘On the Essence of Truth’ in Basic Writings).
2) You don’t need to treat each text in the syllabus equally. Some you may just want to touch on briefly while others you might dwell on at length.
1. Plato. Republic. Translated with an Introduction by C. D. C. Reeve. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co, 2004. (Focus especially on Books: 2, 3, 6-7, 10.)
2. Aristotle. Poetics. Trans. Malcolm Heath, London: Penguin, 1997.
3. Winckelmann, Johann Joachim, and David. G. Irwin. Writings on Art. Translated by David. G. Irwin. London: Phaidon, 1972.
4. Burke, Edmund. A Philosophical Inquiry into Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful. Edited by Adam Phillips, Oxford World’s Classics, 2009.
5. Schiller, Friedrich. On the Aesthetic Education of Man, In a Series of Letters. Translated by Reginald Snell. Dover, 2004.
6. ?Schopenhauer, Arthur, The World as Will and Idea: abridged in one volume. Ed. D. Berman, trans. J. Berman. London: Everyman, 1995.
7. ?Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, edited by Raymond Geuss. The Birth of Tragedy and Other Writings. Translated by Ronald Speirs. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1999. The Birth of Tragedy only.
8. Nietzsche, Friedrich, edited by Keith Ansell-Pearson. On the Genealogy of Morality. Translated by Carol Diethe. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006.
9. Heidegger, Martin, and Joan Stambaugh. Being and Time: A Translation of Sein und Zeit. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2010. Heidegger I (week 10): Part 1, Section 1. Heidegger II (week 11): Part 1, Section 2.
10. ?Derrida, Jacques. Of Grammatology. Translated by Gayatri C. Spivak. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997. Introduction, Part 1: Chapter 2, “Linguistics and Grammatology,” Part 2: Chapter 1, “The Violence of the Letter…”
11. Kristeva, Julia. Powers of Horror: an Essay on Abjection. Translated by Leon S. Roudiez. New York: Columbia University Press, 1982.