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Subject/Abject/Object: Reconfiguring Desire in Contemporary French Cultural Production

Romanowski, Amy (2013) Subject/Abject/Object: Reconfiguring Desire in Contemporary French Cultural Production. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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My study situates non-normative erotics, specifically frameworks of abjective lust for that which harms or disgusts us, as an orientation of queerness that extends gender theorist Eve K. Sedgwick's idea of nonce taxonomies. The definition of queerness, the positioning of non-normative sex acts and practices outside the realm of standard sexualities, has been expanded by Sedgwick into a sequence of individual, sexualized moments. Taking up this canonical idea in queer studies offers an additional configuration to Sedgwick's imaginings, positing that abjective and sadomasochistic desires expand conceptions of queerness to include more than the body-based notions of same-sex sexual acts or other non-normative sex acts.
Informed by the theories of Julia Kristeva and Marcel Jouhandeau, my model of abjectivity insists that sexual attraction based on the pursuit of abjective properties situates queerness beyond the body, a non-normative sexual distinction that is unrestricted by object choice. I identify a series of abjective characters in twentieth-century French cultural production, including Tahar Ben Jelloun's novels L'Enfant de sable (1985) and La Nuit sacrée (1987), Jean Genet's book Notre-Dame-des-Fleurs (1942) and his play Le Balcon (1955), Georges Bataille's tale Madame Edwarda (1941), Marie Darrieussecq's novel Truismes (1996), and three films; Claude Chabrol's La Cérémonie (1995), Virginie Despentes' and Coralie Trinh Thi's Baise-moi (2000) and Alexandre Aja's Haute Tension (2003). Working from the understanding that non-normative desire is the scaffolding for queerness, my dissertation examines abjection as the provocative motor for sexual desire. I analyze the works within this project through the lens of gender theorist Judith Butler, who claims that desire for the abjective self or object choice contributes to the solidified subjectivity of both the subject and the object. Desire thus interpellates the object, permitting its entry into the world of subjectivity. In response to relentless sexual pursuit based upon abjective qualities such as disfigured gender expression or self-loathing, each figure constructs a sense of self, understanding him/herself better through understanding what makes them erotic or desirable to others. I conclude that the lust for each figure initiates periods of self-exploration that constructs a sense of self-awareness in these characters.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairReeser, Toddreeser@pitt.eduREESER
Committee MemberDoshi, Neildoshi@pitt.eduDOSHI
Committee MemberGlazener, Nancyglazener@pitt.eduGLAZENER
Committee MemberMecchia, Giuseppinamecchia@pitt.eduMECCHIA
Committee MemberPettersen, Daviddpetter@pitt.eduDPETTER
Date: 2 July 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 28 March 2013
Approval Date: 2 July 2013
Submission Date: 6 April 2013
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 373
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > French
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: abject, French, film, literature
Date Deposited: 02 Jul 2013 14:14
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2018 05:15


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