Of Housewives and Saints: Abjection, Transgression, and Impossible Mourning in Poison and Safe

Of Housewives and Saints: Abjection, Transgression, and Impossible Mourning in Poison and Safe Camera Obscura tion between two key problematics, each of which approaches the issue of abjection from a different angle. The first concerns the performative resources provided by the condition of abjection or rejection by the social order at large. Jack Fairy’s tactics of resignification, for example, unmistakably recall the performative strategies adopted by the outcast characters in Haynes’s earlier film, Poison (US, 1991). Based on the autobiographical novels of Jean Genet,1 and intercutting three different narratives rendered in three distinct visual modes, Poison introduces us to a host of marginal figures who, in masochistically embracing their abjection, ascend (or perhaps one should say descend) into Genetian sainthood. The second problematic to which Haynes’s films repeatedly return concerns the psychosomatic costs of a too-forceful repudiation of the abject, or of the constitutive exclusions that are a precondition for the achievement of normative femininity. Safe (US/UK, 1995) and Far from Heaven, for instance, take up the cinematic conventions associated with the maternal melodrama (the former in a much quieter way than the latter, to be sure) in order to foreground that which cannot be accommodated within the bounds of bourgeois domesticity — life-threatening illness and racial and sexual otherness. In http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Camera Obscura Duke University Press

Of Housewives and Saints: Abjection, Transgression, and Impossible Mourning in Poison and Safe

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
Copyright 2004 by Camera Obscura
ISSN
1529-1510
eISSN
1529-1510
D.O.I.
10.1215/02705346-19-3_57-93
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Camera Obscura tion between two key problematics, each of which approaches the issue of abjection from a different angle. The first concerns the performative resources provided by the condition of abjection or rejection by the social order at large. Jack Fairy’s tactics of resignification, for example, unmistakably recall the performative strategies adopted by the outcast characters in Haynes’s earlier film, Poison (US, 1991). Based on the autobiographical novels of Jean Genet,1 and intercutting three different narratives rendered in three distinct visual modes, Poison introduces us to a host of marginal figures who, in masochistically embracing their abjection, ascend (or perhaps one should say descend) into Genetian sainthood. The second problematic to which Haynes’s films repeatedly return concerns the psychosomatic costs of a too-forceful repudiation of the abject, or of the constitutive exclusions that are a precondition for the achievement of normative femininity. Safe (US/UK, 1995) and Far from Heaven, for instance, take up the cinematic conventions associated with the maternal melodrama (the former in a much quieter way than the latter, to be sure) in order to foreground that which cannot be accommodated within the bounds of bourgeois domesticity — life-threatening illness and racial and sexual otherness. In

Journal

Camera ObscuraDuke University Press

Published: Jan 1, 2004

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