The Abject

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A term developed by feminist philosopher Julia Kristeva in her seminal essay "Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection" (1982), which explored the human reaction to the fragmented, decayed, or impure human body. Applied to works that reference functions or aspects of the body that are deemed impure or taboo—like wounds, illness, bodily fluids, and death. According to Kristeva, the corpse is the ultimate image of the abject, as it forces us to acknowledge the inevitable corruption of our own bodies. “[The corpse] is death infecting life," she explains. "Imaginary uncanniness and real threat, it beckons to us and ends up engulfing us.”

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