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Human RemainsMedicine, Death, and Desire in Nineteenth-Century Paris$
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Jonathan Strauss

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780823233793

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823233793.001.0001

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What Abjection Means

What Abjection Means

(p.258) Eight What Abjection Means
Human Remains

Jonathan Strauss

Fordham University Press

This chapter argues that the abject dead represent the breakdown of subjectivity, and that subjectivity is based on the awareness of other subjectivities, instantiated in the very structures of language. The desire inherent in abjection is the longing for a lost and mythical world of plenitude, in which consciousness spreads throughout material existence, unhindered by the constraints of the “I.” But that lost plenitude—the mythical origin of the self and the city—can no longer be imagined without recalling that it entails the loss or killing of the other. This memory returns, ineradicably, as a remnant of that fantasmatic killing. It returns, in other words, as a corpse. The revulsion that cannot be dissociated from abject desire derives, then, from the attempt to expel the remnant blocking our appropriation of the material world. That obstruction is the dead other, who invariably resurfaces in the structures of desire themselves.

Keywords:   abjection, subjectivity, corpse, other, plentitude

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