By Rina Arya (auth.)
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Additional resources for Abjection and Representation: An Exploration of Abjection in the Visual Arts, Film and Literature
During the time in which Kristeva was writing, Lacanian theory was widely accepted as a model of subjectivity in psychoanalysis. Lacan presents three distinct realms, or orders, of the psyche (a schema that he came up with in 1953): Real, Symbolic and Imaginary, which collectively present a way of understanding the functioning of the human psyche. They are often described as different stages, but it is more accurate to see them as realms of experience that interrelate and interlock. 7 In this pre-Oedipal stage the infant’s experience of the world is undifferentiated and the infant exists in oneness with the mother.
Kristeva challenges Lacan’s theory of psychoanalysis on a number of different grounds. One of the reasons for her revision of Lacanian theory is the sense of horror and disgust evinced by certain ‘objects’ outside the self. How can we explain these powerful sensations if not in relation to our former state of the maternal? Repulsion then issues from the pre-Symbolic state of expulsion and rejection of the mother. In Kristeva’s theory, separation does not begin during Lacan’s Symbolic order (or at the Oedipal stage in Freud’s model) but occurs beforehand (at a pre-Symbolic and pre-Oedipal level) as evidenced in rituals that involve turning away from the mother’s breast.
Prior to this, the infant perceives itself as fragmented and interior. The Mirror Stage is a critical stage in the process of identiﬁcation, where the image(s) of oneself becomes translated into the idea of the self, and in particular ‘me’, thus enabling the transition to the Symbolic realm (which is represented by the father) of language, law and the order of society. The infant’s cognitive sense of identiﬁcation with an image outside of itself is concomitant with other perceptions: the infant begins to recognize what it lacks and expresses the trauma of the loss of maternal oneness, as well as desire, using the newly acquired gift of linguistic language.