The awful daring of a moment's surrender: The male body of jouissance, abjection and embodiment in T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences


T. S. Eliot's 'impersonality' and formula of the 'objective correlative' have been consistently discussed in terms of 'disembodiment'. Part I of this thesis argues that this disembodiment is the precondition of exemplary male phallic subjectivity, that fundamentally disavows what I will call the 'male body of jouissance'. Eliot's aforementioned theories are at odds with his view of the task of the poet - to work particular feeling and experience into language. This tension is, I argue, correlative to the incommensurability between the male body of jouissance and the phallic male body -as this incommensurability is established in Lacan's The signification of the phallus. I argue that this incommensurability is experienced as abjection, the loss of the clean and proper self explained in Kristeva's Powers of Horror. This results in a relation to language whereby abject contents are excluded and sublimated cathartically into 'style' -which i will argue is an embodied, rather than disembodied relation. Part II of this thesis consists of a reading of T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, insisting that the language is double - it both means through allusion and repeats the jouissance of the (non)subject on a different register: through style, rhythm and music. I argue this catharsis begins with a language charged with fear and loathing and through a process of catharsis becomes pleasured. This constitutes an 'embodiment', a bringing together of the clean and proper body with the abjected contents that, while impossible logically, is possible in language because of this (illogical) musical, stylistic register. I therefore argue The Waste Land is a fundamentally embodied text

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