The Abject Object

Avatars of the Phallus in Contemporary French Theory, Literature and Film


This book addresses representations and constructions of masculinity in crisis in contemporary French culture by way of two important concepts – the phallus (largely but not solely in (a) Lacanian sense(s)) and abjection (Kristeva). Scrutiny of these concepts informs readings of a number of texts – literary (Bataille, Adamov, Doubrovsky, Houellebecq, Rochefort, Angot) and cinematic (Ferreri, Eustache, Godard, Noé, Bonello) – in which the abject phallus is a significant factor. The texts chosen all describe or stage crises of masculinity and mastery in ways that suggest that these supposedly beneficent qualities – and the phallus that symbolizes them – can often be perceived as burdensome or even detestable. Abjection is a widely-used concept in contemporary cultural studies, but has not hitherto been articulated with the phallus as emblem of male dominance as it is here. The volume will be of interest to those working in the areas of French, gender and film studies.

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Keith Reader is Professor of Modern French Studies at the University of Glasgow and has published extensively in the areas of French culture, film and intellectual history. His most recent books are monographs on Régis Debray and Robert Bresson. He is coeditor, with Alex Hughes, of the Encyclopedia of Contemporary French Culture, of which a second edition is currently in preparation.
Chapter One: The Lacanian phallus
Chapter Two: Abjection
Chapter Three: The abject phallus in fiction: Bataille and Adamov
Chapter Four: Abject phalluses, abject penises: Serge Doubrovsky and Michel Houellebecq
Chapter Five: Phallic narrative transvestism: Christiane Rochefort and Christine Angot
Chapter Six: The abject phallus in cinema: Godard, Ferreri, Eustache, Noé, Bonello
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