The abject is an extremely strong feeling which is at once somatic and symbolic, and which is above all a revolt of the person against an external menace from which one wants to keep oneself at a distance, but of which one has the impression that it is not only an external menace but that it may menace us from inside. So it is a desire for separation, for becoming autonomous, and also the feeling of an impossibility of doing so-whence the element of crisis which the notion of abjection carries with it. Taken to its logical consequences, it is an impossible assemblage of elements, with a connotation of a fragile limit, (Kristeva in a 1980 interview, qtd. in Weiss 93).
Julia Kristeva's description of the abject is a good frame for, "Women in Love," because nausea--the most evident reaction to the abject--permeates the novel. Social historians would call it wartime malaise, feminists would call it the horrors of patriarchy, but psychoanalysts might identify it as abjection, a repulsion from and attraction to horrific things or, as Brandon Rogers cunningly called it, "identifying with the shit" (10). Developing out of eighteenth-century theories of the sublime, abjection is central to Julia Kristeva's development of Lacanian psychoanalysis. Kristeva shifts the focus from Lacan's mirror stage to the preverbal stage in which differentiation from the mother is still murky--in other words, to the very inception of subject formation. Abjection stems from very early feelings of separation from the mother. Powers of Horror, a book published in 1980, and translated in 1982, describes the processes of psychic defense against the horror of separation.
We are all familiar with the word, "abject." We use it as an epithet, as in "abject poverty" or "abject misery." The Oxford Dictionary gives us the meanings: "1) miserable [. . .] 2) degraded [. . .] 3) despicable." The etymology is from Latin abjectus, or "thrown away.