On nothing : a Kristevan reading of trauma, abjection and representation
This doctorate provides a critical reassessment of Julia Kristeva's work on abjection, focusing on the abject as a form of writing. It brings Kristeva's work on abjection into dialogue with the writings of Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Paul Celan and Charlotte Delbo, the music of Diamanda Galas, the paintings of Francis Bacon, and a series of photographs taken by the Sonderkommando at Auschwitz. The overarching argument of the thesis is that these different mediums access the realm of the abject in distinct and effective ways. Centrally, I argue that Celine writes `towards, ' Celan from `within' and Delbo `back from' this realm. I begin the thesis with a consideration of the ethical ramifications accompanying Kristeva's decision to use the works of Celine as the primary exemplar of writing as a process of abjection. The chapter includes an engagement with Celine's anti-Semitic pamphlets. It also compares the work of Celine and Jean-Paul Sartre in terms of the sexual economy of their writing. In my second chapter, I argue for understanding the abject as a kind of noise that exists as the underside to language. I track the way noise manifests itself in language through detailed readings of works by Bacon, Galas and Celan. The third chapter explores Delbo's conception of anamnesis, drawing particularly on the works of Didier Anzieu and Brian Massumi to think through the notion of the `skin of memory'. I make a case for understanding Delbo's prose as a conduit for sensation as well as a mode of description. In my conclusion I consider the status of four photographs taken by a member of the Sonderkommando at Auschwitz as a form of bearing witness to atrocity. I argue that these images can be understood as a visual correlative to the writings of Celan and Delbo.