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“Die Ewigkeit als Dauererektion”: Synchronic and Diachronic Abjection in Heiner Müller’s Quartett


The implicit dialogue between the Heiner Müller’s dramatic works and Julia Kristeva’s theory of the abject has been largely neglected in scholarship. This article suggests not only that Kristeva’s theory of the abject informs a reading of Müller’s 1988 drama, Quartett, but also that Müller’s drama adds to Kristeva’s theory by linking the synchronic abjection pertaining to the body and subject relations with what I term “diachronic abjection,” a mode of abjection pertaining to historical placement. In Müller’s enigmatic work, violent sexuality, physical decay, and excrement are related not only to mortality and self-definition, but also to the individual’s ability to exist in the present without forgetting the past. While Kristeva only briefly considers how the abject relates to historicity, Müller makes this central to his work, which carries political implications considering his dramas’ role in critiquing the relations between memory and revolution, as well as GDR memory politics.

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