When this spectral intervention fails to deter Manfred, he finds himself confronted by a second phenomenon—the ghost of his grandfather, the original usurper of Otranto’s rule and the regicidal murderer of Alfonso the Good. The specter wordlessly leads Manfred away from Isabella, granting her time enough to make good her escape. This brief interaction forever alters the relation between Manfred and Isabella. Whereas the two characters had once inhabited the productive, acceptable subject positions of paternal guardian and affectionate daughter-to-be, their relationship is reconfigured in a discourse of menacing villain and imperiled heroine. Despite his professed intention of bringing a new lineage into being, Manfred’s plot to take Isabella as a wife actively dismantles the constituting bonds of attachment and affiliation. In place of those bonds he erects only a space of abjection and antagonism that manifests itself in Isabella’s feelings of repulsion and loathing as well as in the sadism of his own perverse ends.i This abjection re-creates Manfred and Isabella as subjects of instability; un-moored from the familial relation that underwrites the ordinary hierarchy of power, Manfred haunts Isabella as a threatening revenant, while Isabella occupies the role of an unobtainable, ethereal spirit that eludes Manfred’s grasp. In a sense, they too have become spectral, or have at least assumed positions within a spectral order, in that they exist in-between the poles of subject and object; they are, at once, confirmed by various discourses as subjects yet also “ejected beyond the scope of the possible, the tolerable, the thinkable” (Kristeva 1). Indeed, each is objectified by the other’s abjection—Isabella as an object of desire and Manfred as an object of terror.
iI am invoking the term abjection here as it is developed by Julia Kristeva in Powers of Horror (1982). Kristeva’s refinement of the psychological theory of abjection is complimentary to Derrida’s theorization of spectrality in two key areas. Both “abject” and “hauntological” denote an experience of irreducible indeterminacy—namely, in the subject/object chimera of abjection and the present/non-present status of the specter. Also, like spectrality, abjection reproduces a spatiality fraught with exclusion, menace, and transgressive ambivalence: “abjection is above all ambiguity. Because, while releasing a hold, it does not radically cut off the subject from what threatens it—on the contrary, abjection acknowledges it to be in perpetual danger” (9).