The death drive: Crippled body(work) in David Cronenberg’s 'Crash'

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


    This paper explores the connection between disability and eroticism. It takes as its starting point the interconnection between the disabled body – specifically the body that has become impaired through automobile accidents – as simultaneously abject and erotic. The traumatized body is read as a signifier for the Freudian death drive, in need of restraint and discipline. Romance is the civilizing of the death-driven eroticism exhibited in David Cronenberg’s movie 'Crash' (1996). In Crash, a young professional couple have a relationship that revolves around a very open sexuality. Following an automobile accident, the husband, Ballard, then his wife, become increasingly drawn into a circle centered around the enigmatic and charismatic figure of Vaughn. This group crave sexual excitement and exploration in the destructive theatre of automobile accidents, both actual and staged. Here, disfigured bodies of people and cars signify the excess of the death drive, pushing beyond the amoral presociality of nature and against the normativity of civilization. In this state, the automobile, as signifier of sexual potency, danger and excitement in American culture, functions as an objet petit a for Cronenberg, taking the subject ever closer to the fulfilment of desire at the moment of death, which is the end of desire. For that reason, the impaired body does not directly or intrinsically signify sexual fulfilment, but only insofar as it is a physical sign of the danger and excitement of the automobile. The body impaired through mechanical violence assumes an extreme sexualization here because of the residue of the various overdetermining factors.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2018
    EventEmerging Disability Issues: Varieties of Disability Activism and Disability Studies: Euro-Mediterranean Conference on Disability Studies and Disability Activism - University of Malta, Sliema, Malta
    Duration: 2 May 20184 May 2018


    ConferenceEmerging Disability Issues: Varieties of Disability Activism and Disability Studies
    Abbreviated titleEmerging Disability Issues
    Internet address


    • disability
    • film studies
    • David Cronenberg
    • bodily transgression


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