T. S. Eliot’s monumental poem, The Waste Land, discusses hopelessness and desolation and shuns them at every turn. The speakers spurn it and despair at the desolate state of humankind and society. This paper aims to read T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land in light of Julia Kristeva’s theory of abjection and Jacques Lacan’s notion of jouissance. The main claim is that despite the apparent horror of desolation, the more the poem tries to repel desolation, the more it cannot help but repeatedly allude to it, as if unwillingly drawn to it, so that death and desolation are not the subject, nor are they the object, but rather the abject of the poem. The sections of the poem I feel are most relevant for such an analysis are “The Burial of the Dead” (lines 1-30) and “What the Thunder Said” (lines 322-375).
Keywords: Abjection, T. S. Eliot, Julia Kristeva, Death, Jouissance