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The article offers an account of the post-humanist uses of abjection in contemporary art and literature. The discussion ranges from Julia Kristeva and Brit Art to Don DeLillo, Bret Easton Ellis, Thomas Pynchon, Donald Barthelme and Jonathan Franzen. If the realm of the sign insists upon a cleaned-up, happy and healthy world of the real, in which all oppositions can be mediated or negotiated away, and in which the merely human is seen as powerless and determined from the outside by immense state and economic power as well as from the inside by the psychological imperatives of brand names, insistence on the designer body, and the manipulation of desire, the situation of the human is becoming increasingly that of abjection. This concept is partly thought about by way of Kristeva's psychoanalytical formulation, but more than that in terms of what might be called a pyscho-cultural appreciation of the way that patterns, usually seen in terms of individual acculturation based on Freudian and Lacanian understandings, seem also to operate in the wider field of society. Critical interest in this theory so far has been primarily located within the context of gothic and horror fiction, but arguably the question of abjection is only fully to be understood in this wider framework of resistance to the colonization of the sign, and of meaning itself. In short, the artistic fascination with abjection represents the oppositional production of an antithesis to colonized and cleaned-up meaning structures, an in-your-face riposte to what we might call, rather than a brave new world, a clean new world.
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Keywords: Brett Easton Ellis; Brit Art; Don DeLillo; Jonathan Franzen; Thomas Pynchon; abjectionposthumanism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of East Anglia.

Publication date: 2005-12-01

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  • The European Journal of American Culture (EJAC) is an academic, refereed journal for scholars, academics and students from many disciplines with a common involvement in the interdisciplinary study of America and American culture, drawing on a variety of approaches and encompassing the whole evolution of the country.
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