As you know, dear Reader, I am blessed with nerves of steel, a will of iron, and a heart of pure gold. Few on this earth or beyond would take issue with this.

But since it is just you and me here, exploring the wonders of the hybrid self-help/confessional genre together, I shall let you into a little secret.

Dear Reader.

Today, I experienced Horror. Horror, mixed with repugnance and despair.

Picture the scene.

It is early in the morning. The Humanities Beacon is silent, apart from a low chugging sound coming from the oncoming. The only moving thing is me, gliding across the parquet floor of my oak-lined rooms to admire the patio cobblestones outside as they gleam in the pale morning sun.

Suddenly, my mule-encased foot (left) freezes over the threshold of the French doors.

A mere inch below my foot, dear Reader, is a Thing of Horror.

It is small, shrivelled.

Its skin shimmers, its tiny belly rippling, gasping.

It hovers between organic and inorganic.

It is the colour of dung, the essence of the rejected self.

It is compelling, raw, insolent in the morning light. Its ectoplasmic tail twitches.

It is the very essence of abjection.

Dear Reader. My heart beats faster. The order of my world is threatened. I stand, mule raised, at the border of my condition as a living being. I am about to fall, my very being ceasing to exist.

Just then my office door bursts open.

‘Mornin’ Dr A!’ cries Cordelia, carrying a large bin liner. ‘Dropped something over there by the door earlier, didn’t I? Whoopsy-daisy!’

At this Cordelia bends down, flicks the used teabag into her bin liner and departs, whistling ‘my old man’s a dustman’.

Sometimes, dear Reader, life offers us unexpected lessons in literary theory.*


* Your homework this week, dear Reader, is Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror, pp. 2-4.


5 thoughts on “Lessons in Literary Theory (1): The Abject

    1. Why, dearest Mise, I cannot disappear just like *that*! It would break my poor, poor Reader’s heart, and who knows what would become of my staff, students and all the other underlings. No, my dear, I shall soldier on.

  1. Well thanks for that Ada. I scrolled down through ‘Powers of Horror’ until I felt quite giddy. Now I’m reading Barbara Pym with a nice cup of Earl Grey Rooibos tea and a digestive biscuit to settle my stomach.

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