Powers Of Horror Movie Analysis

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Chapter One - The Abject

Julia Kristeva is a Bulgarian-French philosopher, psychoanalyst and feminist writer. Her work on abjection gives an engaging insight into human culture in terms of it’s relationship to larger overarching power structures. In Powers of Horror, Kristeva argues that the oppression of woman in patriarchal societies is constructed through fear of the abject. “The tremendous forcing that consists in subordinating maternal power (whether historical of phantasmic, natural or reproductive.)” (Kristeva, 1982, p.91) The abject refers to the human reaction of revulsion to the threat of breakdown between the subject and object, the self and other. The border which separates nature and culture, between human and non human.
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“For the concept of the monstrous feminine, as constructed within/by a patriarchal and phallocentric ideology, is related intimately to the problem of sexual differences and castration.” (Creed, 1993, p.2) Creed takes an interesting approach to Kristeva theory of abjection and Freud’s theory of castration and applies it to horror film. Taking Kristeva’s theory of the abject and the archaic mother, she constructs monstrous representations of the abject woman. The monstrous womb which is the representation of mans fear of woman’s maternal functions. “Fear of the archaic mother turns out to be essentially fear of her generative power. It is this power, a dreaded one, that patrilineal filiation has the burden of subduing.” (Kristeva, 1982, p.77) Freud argued that woman terrifies because she is castrated. “Castration fear plays on a collapse of gender boundaries” (Creed, 1993, p.54) She suggests, that Freud misread Han’s fear in the Little Hans and that Han’s viewed his mothers as the castrator not his father, that his mother’s lack of phallus is seen not as a castrated organ but that of a castrating organ. The mother-child border is entangled in the complex and multi-faceted image of the castrating mother. According to Freud, man fears that of the mother as castrated and as that of the cannibalistic all devouring mother. “Construction of a patriarchal ideology unable to deal with the threat of sexual differences as it is embodied in the images of the feminine as archaic mother and is seen as the castrated mother.” (Creed, 1993, p.22) Kristeva suggests that the notion of the castrated women is to ease mans fear of woman, who has the power to psychologically and physically castrate him. The archaic mother as the monstrous womb and the castrating mother can be used as a way of understanding the work of Mona Hatoum and AIne Phillips, both
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