Abject Design: a Psychoanalytic/Structuralist Analysis of Julia Kristeva’s “the Old Man and the Wolves”

2294 words 10 pages
Abject Design
A psychoanalytic/structuralist analysis of Julia Kristeva’s “The Old Man and the Wolves”

Julia Kristeva’s The Old Man and the Wolves details the gradual degeneration of the fundamentally corruptible community of Santa Varvara. As described by the novel’s namesake, the Old Man Septicious Clarus, in terms of singularity, morality and—both metaphorically and palpably—humanity, each individual’s marked decay is seen as the horrific transformation into a wolf with regard to both physical and psychological form. While the Old Man, he denotative of a purer set of morals, remains in adamant opposition to the wolves—which
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At times a further depth is achieved, such that even the characters’ intrinsic elements may be defined in this way; the “milk-chocolate voice” that represents Billy Holliday implies a positive emotional response from the Old Man to a musician whose avant-garde style is fairly opposite that which would be expected from the disciplined academic that is Septicious. Thus an implicit depth is given to this character that could not, but through explicit exposition, elsewise be affixed. A significant advantage to this brand of character production is the effect of undoing it. Indeed, as the novel nears part II, at a time in the plot concurrent with Santa Varvara’s mass metamorphosis from a society of people to one of wolves, so do Kristeva’s descriptions shift their emphasis from the metonymic to the verbal. Vespasian, who had earlier been defined by images of his mutating visage, is now described in terms of his actions: “It is hard to say what was most shameful about his marriages: the way he entered into them, the way he ended them, or the way he kept them up” (42). This definite shift away from the semiotic, Kristeva’s “emotional field,” represents on a textual level a general loss of signification by the characters as they become wolves (McAlister). No longer are they considered patently human and no longer are they composed of invocatory imagery; rather they have become typically “symbolic” as the lupine metastasis results in a loss of