Sabtu, 24 November 2007

Julia Kristeva's Bibliography

[This information was contributed by Kelly Oliver.]


  1. Le feminin et le sacre. Co-authored with Catherine Clément. Paris: Stock, 1998.
  2. Le temps sensible: Proust et l'expérience littéraire, Paris: Gallimard, 1994.
  3. Les Nouvelles maladies de l'ame, Paris: Libraire Artheme Fayard, 1993.
  4. Soleil noir: Depression et mélancolie, Paris: Gallimard, 1987.
  5. Histoires d'amour, Edtions Denoël: Paris, 1983.
  6. Pouvoirs de l'horreur, Paris: Seuil, 1980.
  7. Polylogue, Paris: Seuil, 1977.
  8. La Révolution du langage poétique, Paris: Seuil, 1974.

  1. Time and Sense: Proust and the Experience of Literature, Trans. by Ross Guberman, New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.
  2. New Maladies of the Soul Trans. by Ross Guberman, New York: Columbia University Press, 1995.
  3. Black Sun Trans. by Leon Roudiez, New York: Columbia University Press, 1989.
  4. Tales of Love Trans. by Leon Roudiez, New York: Columbia University Press, 1987.
  5. Revolution in Poetic Language, Trans. by Margaret Waller, New York: Columbia University Press, 1984.
  6. Powers of Horror, Trans. by Leon Roudiez, New York: Columbia University Press, 1982.
  7. Desire in Language, Edited by Leon Roudiez, New York: Columbia University Press, 1980.

  • "A New Type of Intellectual: The Dissident," in The Kristeva Reader, Edited by Toril Moi, New York: Columbia University Press, 1986; originally published in 1977.
  • "Julia Kristeva in conversation with Rosiland Coward," Desire, ICA Documents, 1984, p. 22-27.

Secondary Sources

  • de Nooy, Juliana. Derrida, Kristeva, and the Dividing Line: An Articulation of Two Theories of Difference. Garland, 1998.
  • Huntington, Patricia. Ecstatic Subjects, Utopia and Recognition: Kristeva, Heidegger, Irigaray.
  • Julia Kristeva 1966-96: Aesthetics, Politics, Ethics. (special issue of the journal Parallax out of the University of Leeds, UK) 1998.
  • Lechte, John and Mary Zournazi, ed. After the Revolution: On Kristeva. 1998. ISBN 1-876017-37-6.
  • O'Grady, Kathleen, ed. Julia Kristeva: A Bibliography of Primary and Secondary Sources in French and English: 1966-1996. 1997.
  • Oliver, Kelly, ed. Ethics, Politics, and Difference in Julia Kristeva's Writings. 1993.
  • Oliver, Kelly. "Julia Kristeva's Feminist Revolutions," Hypatia a journal of feminist philosophy, 8:3, summer 1993, p. 94-114.
  • Oliver, Kelly, ed. The Portable Kristeva. 1997.
  • Oliver, Kelly. Reading Kristeva: Unraveling the Double-Bind. 1993.
  • Reineke, Martha J. Sacrificed Lives: Kristeva on Women and Violence. 1997.
  • Smith, Anna. Julia Kristeva: Readings of Exile and Estrangement. 1997.
  • Smith, Anne-Marie. Julia Kristeva: Speaking the Unspeakable. Pluto Press, 1998.
Internet Sites

[Note: Some of this information was contributed by David Polan.] or click here. or click here. or click here. or click here.
You can reach the Julia Kristeva page on the Voice of the Shuttle website at: or click here.

An Interview with Julia Kristeva (4)

by Kathleen O'Grady

[Copyright 1998 Kathleen O'Grady]

This is a small section (pp. 8-11) of a larger audience dialogue with Julia Kristeva, printed in Parallax: Julia Kristeva 1966-96. Aesthetics, Politics, Ethics. Issue 8 July-September 1998, pp. 5-16. Guest Editor, Griselda Pollock. This interview appears here with the permission of Kathleen O'Grady.

Kathleen O'Grady: Though your work has included linguistic and semiotic studies, literature and psychoanalytic analyses, your writings have been consistently framed by the Johanine quotation, 'In the beginning was the Word.' You adopted Céline's revision in Powers of Horror: 'No! In the beginning was emotion. The Word came next to replace emotion as the trot replaces the gallop'. In Tales of Love you sum up your understanding of Freud with the statement: 'In the beginning was hatred'. Your text on the relation of psychoanalysis and faith is titled, In the Beginning was Love. And more recently your work on Proust has reformulated this statement once again: 'In the beginning was suffering'. This continual transformation of the New Testament invocation ('In the beginning') begs the question: which of your semiotic, psychoanalytic, or Catholic proclivities generates this perpetual revisionism, this persistent desire for tracking and tracing a beginning?

Julia Kristeva: You are posing some very searching questions and not treating me gently here. I will answer the question in two parts: one is the interest in origins, and the other the place of Christian tradition. Origins are one of the fundamental questions of metaphysics that cannot be entirely avoided in linguistics or psychoanalysis. Let me take the psychoanalytical point of view. In anamnesis we have the possibility of entering as far as possible into the investigation of infantile memory to discover the most distant memories of our childhood. These are so often traumatic memories. In this journey, a strange transmutation occurs in our language. In speaking, in traversing the universe of signs, we arrive at emotions, at sensations, at drives, at affects, and even at what Freud named the 'umbilicus of the dream'. This is something unnamable, which becomes, none the less, the source of our investigation. The heteronomy of our psyche has always preoccupied my investigations. I am interested in language [langage], and in the other side of language which is filtered inevitably by language and yet is not language. I have named this heterogeneity variously. I have sought it out in the experience of love, of abjection, of horror. I have called it the semiotic in relation to the symbolic. But it is the doubling of language [la langue] that seems, at the moment, to be of more interest to women than to men.

What the other side of language as metaphysics thinks of as origins, is not an origin. Rather it is heterogeneity vis-à-vis language. I suggest that this is a fundamental point of psychoanalytical theory. Freud frequently reclaimed what he called his dualism: the death drive versus the life instincts. For Freud the psychic apparatus is composed of two distinct economies or logics of Ruth the Moabite. The book of Ruth is a magisterial reflection on the alterity and strangeness of woman which one finds nowhere else. Ruth is a foreigner and yet she is the ancestor of the royal house of David. Thus, at the hear of sovereignty there is an inscription of a foreign femininity. Institutionalized Judaism does not recognize this, yet it is part of a tradition of generosity towards the other that is at the heart of Jewish monotheism. In the Song of Songs the amours relation is figured as a relation between a man and a woman who are strangers, travelers, destined to lose each other. Separation is thus placed at the heart of the relation of one to the other in the Bible. With regards to my interest in narcissism, you will recall the Biblical and Gospel verse on which Thomas Aquinas comments: Love your neighbor as yourself. It can be interpreted narrowly as the legitimation of egotism and individualism. But in my book, Tales of Love, I interpreted it as the necessity of structuring narcissism. To become capable of loving our neighbor as ourself, we have first of all to heal a wounded narcissism. We must reconstitute narcissistic identity to be able to extend a hand to the other. Thus what is needed is a reassurance or reconstruction of both narcissism, personality and, of course, the subject for there to be a relation to the other. To put this into its practical social context, let me recall the enthusiasm with which many of us of the generation of '68 launched ourselves into social activism, and put our selves and our comforts at risk. We struggled to find some meaning in the destruction. We occupied factories; I myself took part in this to find meaning in life. But while reading as usual, and in particular at that moment, these texts, the Bible, the Gospels and Thomas Aquinas, I began to argue that it was important to act on this social plane by moving into the factories, but perhaps it was necessary to be installed within ourselves first of all. This seems to be the primary message of Thomas Aquinas: love the other as oneself, but by being settled within oneself, by delight in oneself. Thus: heal your inner wounds which, as a result will render you then capable of effective social action, or intervention in the social plane with the other. Therefore, I would argue that we must heal our shattered narcissism before formulating higher objectives.

Summary of Major Themes "Kristeva and Feminism"

by Kelly Oliver

[Copyright 1998 Kelly Oliver]

Although Kristeva does not refer to her own writing as feminist, many feminists turn to her work in order to expand and develop various discussions and debates in feminist theory and criticism. Three elements of Kristeva's thought have been particularly important for feminist theory in Anglo-American contexts:

  1. Her attempt to bring the body back into discourses in the human sciences;
  2. Her focus on the significance of the maternal and preoedipal in the constitution of subjectivity; and
  3. Her notion of abjection as an explanation for oppression and discrimination.

The Body

Theories of the body are particularly important for feminists because historically (in the humanities) the body has been associated with the feminine, the female, or woman, and denigrated as weak, immoral, unclean, or decaying. Throughout her writing over the last three decades, Kristeva theorized the connection between mind and body, culture and nature, psyche and soma, matter and representation, by insisting both that bodily drives are discharged in representation, and that the logic of signification is already operating in the material body. In New Maladies of the Soul, Kristeva describes the drives as "as pivot between 'soma' and psyche', between biology and representation" (30; see also Time and Sense).

She is now famous for the distinction between what she calls the "semiotic" and the "symbolic," which she develops in her early work including Revolution in Poetic Language , "From One Identity to the Other" in Desire in Language, and Powers of Horror. Kristeva maintains that all signification is composed of these two elements. The semiotic element is the bodily drive as it is discharged in signification. The semiotic is associated with the rhythms, tones, and movement of signifying practices. As the discharge of drives, it is also associated with the maternal body, the first source of rhythms, tones, and movements for every human being since we all have resided in that body.

The symbolic element of signification is associated with the grammar and structure of signification. The symbolic element is what makes reference possible. For example, words have referential meaning because of the symbolic structure of language. On the other hand, we could say that words give life meaning (nonreferential meaning) because of their semiotic content. Without the symbolic, all signification would be babble or delirium. But, without the semiotic, all signification would be empty and have no importance for our lives. Ultimately, signification requires both the semiotic and symbolic; there is no signification without some combination of both.

Just as bodily drives are discharged into signification, the logic of signification is already operating within the materiality of the body. Kristeva suggests that the operations of identification and differentiation necessary for signification are prefigured in the body's incorporations and expulsions of food in particular (see Revolution in Poetic Language and Powers of Horror). These bodily "identifications" and "differentiations" are regulated by the maternal body before birth and the mother during infancy. Kristeva proposes that there is a maternal regulation or law which prefigures the paternal law which Freudian psychoanalysts have maintained is necessary for signification (see Powers of Horror and Tales of Love). The regulation or grammar and laws of language, then, are already operating on the level of matter.

The Maternal Body

Following Melanie Klein and in contrast to Freud and Lacan, Kristeva emphasizes the maternal function and its importance in the development of subjectivity and access to culture and language. While Freud and Lacan maintain that the child enters the social by virtue of the paternal function, specifically paternal threats of castration, Kristeva asks why, if our only motivation for entering the social is fear, more of us aren't psychotic? In Tales of Love, she questions the Freudian-Lacanian notion that paternal threats cause the child to leave the safe haven of the maternal body. Why leave this safe haven if all you have to look forward to is fear and threats? Kristeva is interested in the earliest development of subjectivity, prior to Freud's oedipal situation or Lacan mirror stage.

Kristeva argues that maternal regulation is the law before the Law, before Paternal Law (see Tales of Love). She calls for a new discourse of maternity that acknowledges the importance of the maternal function in the development of subjectivity and in culture. In "Stabat Mater" in Tales of Love and "Motherhood According to Bellini" in Desire in Language, Kristeva argues that we don't have adequate discourses of maternity. Religion, specifically Catholicism (which makes the mother sacred), and science (which reduces the mother to nature) are the only discourses of maternity available to Western culture.

In "Motherhood According to Bellini" and elsewhere, she suggests that the maternal function cannot be reduced to mother, feminine, or woman. By identifying the mother's relation to the infant as a function, Kristeva separates the function of meeting the child's needs from both love and desire. As a woman and as a mother, a woman both loves and desires and as such she is primarily a social and speaking being. As a woman and a mother, she is always sexed. But, insofar as she fulfills the maternal function, she is not sexed. Kristeva's analysis suggests that to some extent anyone can fulfill the maternal function, men or women.

By insisting that the maternal body operates between nature and culture, Kristeva tries to counter-act stereotypes that reduce maternity to nature. Even if the mother is not the subject or agent of her pregnancy and birth, she never ceases to be primarily a speaking subject. In fact, Kristeva uses the maternal body with its two-in-one, or other within, as a model for all subjective relations. Like the maternal body, each one of us is what she calls a subject-in-process. As subjects-in-process we are always negotiating the other within, that is to say, the return of the repressed. Like the maternal body, we are never completely the subjects of our own experience. Some feminists have found Kristeva's notion of a subject-in-process a useful alternative to traditional notions of an autonomous unified (masculine) subject.

Abjection and Sexism

In Powers of Horror, working with Mary Douglas's Purity and Danger (Douglas, Mary. Purity and Danger, New York: Routledge, 1969.), Kristeva develops a notion of abjection that has been very useful in diagnosing the dynamics of oppression. She describes abjection as an operation of the psyche through which subjective and group identity are constituted by excluding anything that threats one's own (or one's group's) borders. The main threat to the fledgling subject is his or her dependence upon the maternal body. Therefore, abjection is fundamentally related to the maternal function. As Kristeva claims in Black Sun, matricide is our vital necessity because in order to become subjects (within a patriarchal culture) we must abject the maternal body. But, because women cannot abject the maternal body with which they also identify as women, they develop what Kristeva calls a depressive sexuality (see Black Sun). Kristeva's analysis in Black Sun suggests that we need not only a new discourse of maternity but also a discourse of the relation between mothers and daughters, a discourse that does not prohibit the lesbian love between women through which female subjectivity is born.

In Tales of Love, Kristeva suggests that misplaced abjection is one cause of women's oppression (see p. 374). In patriarchal cultures, women have been reduced to the maternal function; that is to say, they have been reduced to reproduction. So, if it is necessary to abject the maternal function to become a subject, and women, maternity, and femininity all have been reduced to the maternal function, then within patriarchy, women, maternity, and femininity are all abjected along with the maternal function. This misplaced abjection is one way to account for women's oppression and degradation within patriarchal cultures.


Although many feminist theorists and literary critics have found Kristeva's ideas useful and provocative, Kristeva's relation to feminism has been ambivalent. Her views of feminism are best represented in her essay "Women's Time" in New Maladies of the Soul. In this essay originally published in 1979, Kristeva argues that there are three phases of feminism. She rejects the first phase because it seeks universal equality and overlooks sexual differences. She implicitly criticizes Simone de Beauvoir and the rejection of motherhood; rather than reject motherhood Kristeva insists that we need a new discourse of maternity. In fact, in "A New Type of Intellectual: The Dissident," Kristeva suggests that "real female innovation (in whatever field) will only come about when maternity, female creation and the link between them are better understood" (298).

Kristeva also rejects what she sees as the second phase of feminism because it seeks a uniquely feminine language, which she thinks is impossible. Kristeva does not agree with feminists who maintain that language and culture are essentially patriarchal and must somehow be abandoned. On the contrary, Kristeva insists that culture and language are the domain of speaking beings and women are primarily speaking beings. Kristeva endorses what she identifies as the third phase of feminism which seeks to reconceive of identity and difference and their relationship. This current phase of feminism refuses to choose identity over difference or visa versa; rather, it explores multiple identities, including multiple sexual identities. In an interview with Rosalind Coward, Kristeva proposes that there are as many sexualities as their are individuals.

  1. For a more detailed account of Kristeva's ambigious relation to feminism, see my "Julia Kristeva's Feminist Revolutions" Hypatia a journal of feminist philosophy, 8:3, summer 1993, p. 94-114.
  2. She introduces her notion of subject-in-process/on trial in her early texts including Revolution in Poetic Language, "Le Sujet en Proces" in Polylogue and Desire in Language, and develops this notion in her later writings.
  3. Her recent analysis in New Maladies of the Soul also carries this suggestion.

Julia Kristeva's Profile (4)

Introduction to Julia Kristeva

Julia Kristeva (b. Bulgaria, 1941-): psychoanalyst, linguist, semiotician, novelist, and rhetorician

  • 1965 - emigrated to Paris for doctoral studies. joined 'Tel Quel group' eventually marrying its head, Philippe Sollers.
  • 1968 - involved in leftist French politics, publishing in Tel Quel.
  • 1970 - part of Tel Quel's editorial board, attended Lacan seminars.
  • 1973 - state doctorate in Paris, thesis published as Revolution in Poetic Language (1984).
  • 1974 - University of Paris, chair of linguistics and visiting appointments at Columbia University.
  • 1979 - begin psychoanalytic career.
  • 1990 - novel, Les Samourais, published.
Kristeva Glossary
  • symbolic - the domain of position and judgment, chronologically follows semiotic (post-Oedipal), is the establishment of a sign system, always present, historical time (linear), and creates repressed writing.
  • semiotic - the science of signs (that which creates the need for symbolic),cyclical through time, pre-Oedipal, and creates unrepressed writing. Exists in children before language acquisition and has significance.
  • semanalysis - word coined by Kristeva to differentiate her type of linguistic analysis which is a dissolving of the sign through critical analysis, avoids the text designing its own limits, and stresses the heterogeneity of language rather than homogeneity of conventional linguistic model.
  • intertextuality - also a term which originates in Kristeva's work, used to designate the transposition of one or more systems of signs on to another which is accompanied by a new enunciative and denotative position.
  • jouissance - total joy or ecstacy achieved through the working of the signifier implying the presence of meaning.
  • (fear - mark of the failure of language to provide symbolization.)
  • other - what exists as opposite of, or excluded by, something else.
  • Other - a hypothetical space or place which is that of the pure
  • signifier, rather than a physical entity.
  • chora - a Platonic term for a matrixlike space that is nourishing, unnameable, and prior to the individual. Chora becomes the focus of the semiotic as the 'pre-symbolic.'

General philosophy

  • writings have gone from macrocosmic to microcosmic to fiction.
  • never privledges either semiotic or symbolic, but strives for equilibrium.
  • all are under the desire to return to period of preseparation.
Writing the body
  • the body is outside the domain of sign and appears as trace writing.
  • semiotic, pre-language self displayed through words outside symbolic definitions.
  • is feminine (semiotic is feminine for Kristeva) but is available to the masculine.
Poetic language
  • distinct from language used for ordinary communication, an otherness of language.
  • it embodies contradiction, life and death, being and non-being, good and evil can exist simultaneously in a text.
  • is the movement between: the real and the non-real.
  • transcends the laws of logic presenting itself as the production of meaning.
"Women's Time" - Kristeva's brand of feminism

"Thanks to the stamp of feminism, do we not sell many books whose naive whining or commercialized romanticism would normally be scoffed at? . . . However questionable the results of women's artistic productions may be, the symptom has been made clear: women are writing. And we are eagerly awaiting to find out what new material they will offer us."

  • first and second generation feminists and the resulting violence.
  • Freud defended and defined.
  • anti-motherhood attitude is alienating.
  • childbirth creates child as symbolic phallus, so that motherhood can be a normalizing and fulfilling experience.
  • create child or literature.
  • desexualization, 'I' as attacker and as victim.
  • Return to religion, community for sake of singularity.
Kristeva and Rhetoric

  • analysis of the rhetoric in art and poetry.
  • Semiotic discussions as possible link to pre-genre study.
Primary Bibliography (translated material)

Kristeva, Julia. About Chinese Women. Trans. Anita Barrow. New York: Marion Boyars, 1977.

- - -. Black Sun: Depression and Melancholy. Trans. Leon Roudiez. New York: Columbia UP, 1989.

- - -. Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art. Ed. Leon Roudiez. Trans. Thomas Gora, Alice Jardine, Leon Roudiez. New York: Columbia UP, 1980.

- - -. In the Beginning was Love: Psychoanalysis and Faith. Trans. Arthur Goldhammer. New York: Columbia UP, 1987.

- - -. New Maladies of the Soul. Trans. Ross Guberman. New York: Columbia UP, 1995.

- - -. Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. Trans. Leon Roudiez. New York: Columbia UP, 1982.

- - -. Revolution in Poetic Language. Trans. Margaret Waller. New York: Columbia UP, 1984.

- - -. Strangers to Ourselves. Trans. Leon Roudiez. New York: Columbia UP, 1991.

- - -. Tales of Love. Trans. Leon Roudiez. New York: Columbia UP, 1987.

Moi, Toril, ed. The Kristeva Reader. New York: Columbia UP, 1986.

Secondary Bibliography

Caws, Mary Ann. "Tel Quel: Text and Revolution." Diacritics 3.1 (1973): 2-8.

Clark, Suzanne and Kathleen Hulley. "An Interview with Julia Kristeva: Cultural Strangeness and the Subject in Crisis." Discourse: A Review of the Liberal Arts, Vol. 13, No. 1, Fall-Winter, 1990-91, pp. 149-80.

Fletcher, John and Andrew Benjamin, eds. Abjection, Melancholia, and Love: The Work of Julia Kristeva. London and New York: Routledge, 1990.

Lechte, John. Julia Kristeva. London and New York: Routledge, 1990.

Phillips, Adam. "What is there to Lose?" London Review of Books, Vol. 12, No. 10, May 24, 1990, p. 6-8.

Steiner, Wendy. "The Bulldozer of Desire." The New York Times Book Review, November 15, 1992, pp. 9, 11.

:: Presented by Alice Kelsey in English 510, 5 August 1996

Julia Kristeva's Profile (3)

Julia Kristeva was born in Bulgaria in 1942. At the age of 23, she moved to Paris and has lived there ever since. Her original interests were in language and linguistics, and she was influenced by her contemporaries Lucian Goldmann, and Roland Barthes. She also studied Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis, and like her mentors, she began to work both as an analyst and an academic. She joined the 'Tel Quel group' in 1965, where she met her future husband, Phillipe Sollers, and became an active member of the group, focusing on the politics of language. The Tel Quel group worked with the notion of history as a text for interpretation and its writing as an act of politicized production rather than an attempt to make an objective reproduction. Kristeva's articles began to appear in publications by Tel Quel and the journal Critique in 1967, and in 1970 she joined the editorial board. Her research in linguistics, including her interest in Lacan's seminars during the same year, manifested in the publication of Le Texte Du Roman (1970), Séméiotiké: Recherches pour une sémanalyse (1969), and subsequently, La Revolution du langage poetique (her doctoral thesis) in 1974. The latter publication led to her accepting of chair of linguistics at the University of Paris, and a series of guest appointments at Columbia University in New York.

Kristeva's unique background, a "foreign" woman working in the predominantly male intellectual circles of France, drives the strategies of her work in semiotics and her interest in the politics of marginality. In accordance with her thinking, she produces both fictional and academic texts. Her interest is in discourses that resist rigid and one-dimensional logic and instead engage in an ongoing process of writing the struggle with the impasse of language. She prefers to analyze, to think language against itself, by its fracturing and multiplication of texts, while taking the figure of negativity into account.

In addition, Kristeva's experiences in Communist Bulgaria provide her an intimate understanding of Marxism and the work of the Russian Formalists such as Mikhail Bakhtin (whose work she is accredited with introducing to the West). Developing Hegel's concept of negativity in conjunction with these ideas and those of her teachers and peers, she produced an influential critique and following shift from Structuralist to Poststructuralist thought. Her particular focus is a process-oriented reading of the sign.

Such a process for Kristeva is concerned with bringing the speaking body back into Phenomenology and linguistics. In opposition to theories in structuralist linguistics that she feels are "nothing more than the thoughts of archivists, archaeologists, and necrophiliacs" she develops a new science, "semanalysis," that connects the body, complete with its drives, back into language from where she believes the logic of signification is already present. In this process she elaborates on the Lacanian idea of the mirror stage and the formation of a separation, a lack, from the (m)other that forms signification as a movement from need (demand) into desire. It is an ongoing process of completion through the symbolic castration of the subject. Here, Kristeva is critical of Lacan's overlooking of processes that take place before the mirror stage.

Kristeva's elaboration on the model of Lacan involves a distinction between the "semiotic" and "semiotics" as a field of study in linguistics, and a further distinction between two heterogeneous types of signification in language, the semiotic and the symbolic. The semiotic exists within the signifying process, it is a discharge of the drives within language that manifests in the rhythm and tone of the text (and the speech of the subject). It refers to an element in symbolic language that does not signify, the bits of psychic and bodily energies (partial drives) that are less precise but nonetheless "speak" of the phenomena of embodied significations through language and their inherent limits. The symbolic is the rule-governed element of language, grammar and syntax, that makes reference and therefore judgment at all possible, the element of meaning associated with the very forces of grammar and syntax.

Kristeva became more interested in psychoanalysis and completed her training in 1979. Her work intensified around the formation of identity and the role abjection and Otherness play in the process. Her writings of the 1980's include transcripts from her practice as an analyst, such as Tales of Love (1983) and Black Sun (1987). Her 1982 publication, Powers of Horror: An Essay in Abjection, describes the pre-mirror stage development of the child's entry into the Law of the father as Lacan theorized. For Kristeva, birth itself is a separation within the body, a violent separation from the body of the mother. In the maternal body, excess gives rise to a separation that is material and maintained by a regulation (regarding availability of the breast) that is prior to the mirror stage. The maternal regulation operates as a law, prefiguring and providing the grounds of paternal Law as the entry of the child into language and society.

Kristeva's writings maintain this logic of an oscillation between symbolic identity and semiotic rejection or the experience of difference. Revolution in Poetic Language and Powers of Horror are focused on material maternal rejection, which prefigures signification and sets up the logic of rejection. Tales of Love (trans.1987) and Black Sun: Depression and Melancholy (trans.1989) are focused on primary narcissism, which prefigures all subsequent identity and sets up the logic of repetition. Strangers to Ourselves (1989) and Lettre ouverte ý Harlem Désir (1990) are focused on rejection or difference within identity. In recognition of her contribution to French intellectual culture, she was honored by the French government in 1990 and made a "chevalier de l'ordre des arts et des lettres." [source]

Interview with Julia Kristeva

Interview by Josefina Ayerza (JA)
JK= Julia Kristeva

JA: With all these Eastern Europeans arriving in Western Europe and the USA, what do you think may happen to local regional cultures?

JK: I have talked about this problem in my last novel The Old Man and the Wolves. The shock, the starting point of this novel was the killing of my father in a Bulgarian hospital, which is an example of what happens in these cultures. My book is about the power of evil. In those countries what succeeds for the communists so called "culture" is the eruption of evil, and I think that unfortunately those people will pass a long time through hell, before arriving at a culture. Will it be national or cosmopolitan, or some new kind of graft between European culture and local tradition? The question now is: we are in front of something that has never happened in Europe since the end of the Roman Empire, which is the bankruptcy of human links — this has of course to do with culture.

JA: The word "bankruptcy" brings up quite an image — since it concerns economy — are you saying it involves wrong administration of the libido, of erotism, of good and evil... and were there links before that aren't there now?

JK: It involves all kind of links: affective links — age, cultural links, and hope projects, love — especially those which make up social tissue. You and me, we are together because we have this ability to exchange something, and we exchange something because erotism is a link. Evil is the break in the link but now there isn't a break, or cut...

JA: How will this bankruptcy effect engage in relation to Jacques Lacan's theory with his emphasis on Kant's ethics?

JK: We have been through two thousand years of christianity and utilitarian philosophy, we are aware of the problem of desire, of sublimation, and of groups and ideal objects... I hope we will remain in this phase. However, what we are experiencing now is something very dangerous — an apocalyptic moment — and I'm afraid that European or American intellectuals have not noticed the radicality of the crisis of this tradition.

JA: So it is a Kantian world which is in crisis?

JK: But desire survives beyond the Kantian world. The whole European tradition is going back to the Bible, to the Gospels, and to Greek philosophy — all those means to sublimate the death potions that writers have elaborated into philosophy and religion — this tradition is threatened now.

JA: Could you be a bit more specific? We are talking of the Russians coming in to the Western world, would that be a reason for this apocalyptic moment to happen?

JK: There is this project of the Western world to see Russians coming, but when you go to Russia, when you go to those Eastern countries, you see them just in a position of passivity, they are stone like, they are depressed and they are stuck.
In a sense I am questioning the question. Intellectuals and others in the Eastern countries like Western culture, they are very willing to join in, but this, for now, is utopia. This is what happened with my hero, the old man who is professor of Latin, but he is the only one from this standpoint to react against the failure of his civilization; to be a dissident. He was killed because they did not allow him to revolt. There were very strong forces in those countries that drive back the ambition of other people to join Western culture. There was an unwritten law in Bulgaria against giving expensive medicine to older people. You cannot speak about Kant and objects of desire when you are on such levels of brutality.

JA: Too primitive a level?

JK: Too primitive, yes: you make operations, but you do not have surgical tools, so part of it is economic crisis and part humanitarian crisis: a loss of value.

JA: A loss of value in reference to human life?

JK: Human life has been transformed into something which does not have any value.

JA: Now, did you see for instance what happened with Andy Warhol? He was in one of the most sophisticated places one might think of; nevertheless he died due to neglection at the hospital.

JK: There are two answers to this question. First I think that the dominance of evil and lack of value is not only a phenomenon in the East; unfortunately it also happens elsewhere. When I wrote this book I wrote it as a metaphor for our civilization also. There is an important difference: here, such kinds of things happen but there are oppositions, while in the Eastern countries we cannot see who are the forces that can struggle against this lack of values.

JA: In your article "The Abject: Powers of Perversion" you wrote about the outrageous Fascism of Céline. Did you, at that time, foresee the actual racism happening in Europe today?

JK: Yes, I am frightened by the strength of nationalism and racism — xenophobia — in European societies. We see this for instance in Germany, but also in France where it can sound more subtle. We have a very strong rejection of foreigners and a sort of withdrawal of the nation, of its own origin and values, and I look at it with concern. I am really envisioning the problem to maybe leave France and to establish myself as an immigrant... to be more accepted.

JA: So you're thinking of coming to America?

JK: Maybe not America. I get the impression that Canadian societies may be more tolerant. But I know that France now is very hostile against immigrants and foreigners and Europe in general— in my mind, I belong to the tradition of French enlightenment. Instead what I see in this country is fragmentation and confinement which does not go in the sense of finding a common ground; you have to bring all those particularities together at the same time as you recognize them. There are two logics to be reconciled.

JA: Could these two logics reconcile through Lacan's idea of alterity? In this sense, isn't love based on differences, moreover on the mutual recognition of these differences?

JK: This point of view, this alterity is not only a Lacanian one.

JA: But the word alterity... I would say it's so Lacanian.

JK: No, alterity is Hegel's word, and in my mind it means that one has to recognize the other in order to bring him in a link with you. Love is a link, which means recognition of an otherness.

JA: We seem to be talking of something that's going on now, in America. Have you seen this extreme division in other countries?

JK: No, even in America it was not the case some years ago, but it is stronger and stronger now. These groups grow separated in separated cultures, you know how much Chinatown is a little piece of China... Somebody told me that many new immigrants do not even learn the English language.

JA: As for the sake of language I think it's even poorer what comes about when people speak their own language at home and go to school in English. Since they are not taught to read and write in their own language, English expressions get translated directly. Then Spanish for instance, this beautiful language which remits to Cervantes, to Borges, has turned into a monstrous deformation... it even has a name, it's called Spanglish.

JK: I have been told also that some of them, Spanish or Asian because they are big communities, can satisfy their needs: they have shops, they live in groups but they are split from what is supposed to be the American community, which means that they can survive but never will a child from this community be a representative of the American society, in the parliament or the senate, or a judge.

JA: Since you are often compared to Simone de Beauvoir, I would like to talk about her and about her novel The Mandarins in relation to your book: The Samurai. Simone de Beauvoir makes a woman the witness of men's intrigues. In your novel instead, at least one woman, if not two, become the core of all the intrigues. Are you saying men are no longer the ones in power, can we see this as a feminist attitude?

JK: I don't know if it is a feminist attitude, but I would hope so, anyhow it's not a feminist attitude in the dogmatic sense of the word. I am not a feminist militant. You are right to say that the main characters are all female. It's funny that no one noticed this before. What our generation wrote about the complexity of this feminine experience escapes cliché and militarist positions. The creative profession of life is deeply connected with the sexual and body experience, more strongly in women than men.

JA: In Desire and Language you allude very much to color through Giotto's paintings, then you write about Bellini and say that his Venus has the face of the Virgin Mary. Is there a vague allusion of this in The Samurai?

JK: Oh, yes, I love Bellini. I put some aspects of this into The Samurai. Contemporary or past art, you can refer to this experience in the course of interpretation. I think the lack of words during the interpretation is important to help people represent their depressive state, natural lack of words, so natural that it's called language. You can refer to some painting or music or literary style and get this usage of beauty into the psychoanalytic interpretation.

JA: But always through words?

JK: Yes, I translate them into words, but when I refer to painting the person sees through my words on the painting, and so it has a sublimatory semiology in order to heal the depressive wounds.

JA: Who are the painters you choose for this? What art do you select, isn't it very subjective?

JK: Yes, it's very subjective. I am very interested in Holbein's The Ambassadors, and the Dead Christ. In my book The Black Sun, the image on the cover is also a child in one of Holbein's paintings. All the portraits of Holbein are of depressed people.

JA: When you talk of this depression, can you say this is the castration concept in Lacan?

JK: No, I think it's something more archaic, and deeper than the phallic stage and the problem of desire. It's mere narcissism, it's a narcissistic wound, which is more how I can relate it to the impossibility of the mother to become an object.

JA: To change the subject, how do you like Jean-Luc Godard? Do you know there is a show in New York at the moment — at the PS1 Museum — which includes works of different artists who have been inspired by Godard's films? Simultaneously his films are playing at the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art).

JK: There is a project about making a film on The Old Man and the Wolves. I am thinking very much of Godard as a possible film maker. Precisely because I think he has very strong feelings about evil. Although this bankruptcy of humanity would prefer something less neat and more postmodern than Godard, I think he is able to go beyond his actual modernism and rejoin something he has done with Pierrot Le Fou and things like that, and in a postmodern style represent these kinds of values. It would be an interesting achievement if we could work together.

JA: Oh! So he is one of the chosen ones.

JK: There is an intention to make him work for this. I have written things about Godard in Art Press years ago. I am very interested by his intensity and cutting, and his lacunar elliptic art. I think in The Old Man and the Wolves there is a treatment of the evil through the paintings of Goya: the old man is dreaming in some visions that finally I find out are very close to Goya's vision of human life. I think Godard could be the right person.

This article was first published in Flash Art Jan/Feb 1993. [source]

The ideas interview: Julia Kristeva

Why is a great critic ashamed of being fashionable? By John Sutherland

The Guardian, Tuesday March 14, 2006

To her admirers, Julia Kristeva is one of the heroic band of French critics who injected "theory" into the sluggish Anglo-Saxon cultural bloodstream. To diehards on the other side, she is a prime exponent of impenetrable and unnecessary critical complexities. One colleague, to whom I mentioned her name replied with the single word "bonkers". Another suggested she should get a Nobel prize.

She is particularly associated with three concepts, which she now seems to wish to disown. Le semiotique is the idea that speech works as much through sub-verbal codes as by what is actually said. The real work of signification is done in the "cleavage between words and meanings". This fascination with the sub- or pre-verbal is something that, looking back, Kristeva now associates with the liturgy of the Orthodox Church: "All my childhood was bathed in this," she says.

The second of Kristeva's hallmark ideas is what she calls "abjection". Why, Kristeva inquires, are we fascinated by things that disgust and horrify us? As she put it in her essay on the subject: "There looms, within abjection, one of those violent, dark revolts of being, directed against a threat that seems to emanate from an exorbitant outside or inside, ejected beyond the scope of the possible, the tolerable, the thinkable. It lies there, quite close, but it cannot be assimilated. It beseeches, worries, and fascinates desire, which, nevertheless, does not let itself be seduced."

Most famously, Kristeva is associated with the concept of "intertextuality" - the idea that all literature is constantly in conversation with all other literature, undetachable, as a single unit, from the textual mass. Having patented these influential ideas, Kristeva is now acutely uneasy at being chained to her own thought, or confined within her own thinking. "I am very proud of the widespread use of my ideas," she says, "and at the same time very much ashamed because they have become so fashionable. Everybody thinks and talks about 'intertextuality', everybody thinks and talks about 'abjection'. The ideas become politically correct everywhere in the world and I hate it because I think when people repeat what you have done and said, they can no longer recognise you yourself. You are denied. It's a kind of decay of this moment when the idea burst out of your mind. Now the idea is consumerised."

Kristeva applies one term to her project - "synthetic". She likes to join things, mix them fluidly. It is, perhaps, something that links with her background. She came to France in 1965, aged 24, as a refugee from communist Bulgaria. She says she now thinks in French. But clearly, as her latest writing indicates, she still feels Bulgarian.

In recent years, restless as ever, Kristeva has utilised fiction as her principal mode of expression. Her latest detective novel, Murder in Byzantium, revisits the Greek Orthodox Christianity of her childhood and incorporates religious conspiracies and Thomas Harris-style serial killers. What does she see as the connection between Kristeva the critic and Kristeva the novelist? "There is a continuation", she replies. "As you know, I belong to the tendency, or school, in French philosophy which developed in the 60s, in which conceptual work is deeply involved with the personal and in which notions, or ideas, are sutured by style. There is a lot of imagination, rhetorical figures, subjective expressions and so on that that often bother the so-called Anglo-Saxon reader because they consider this French 'stuff' - theory - to be somehow indigestible."

Why is her latest novel so concerned with religion? Is she attracted by the Church? Or merely fascinated by it? "I am not a believer, I believe in words. There is only one resurrection for me - and that is in words. My novel is a kind of anti-Da Vinci Code. I'm not Catholic by background. My father was a very great believer, but in the Orthodox Church, in Bulgaria. As a young woman my Oedipus conflict was in a perpetual fight with that." She laughs. "Afterwards I tried to understand what Christianity is and my approach became more intellectual. On the one side, I'm very much interested in religion. On the other hand, I don't make any kind of spiritual - how shall I say - extrapolation or message. My idea is to link religion with politics and see how in both of them there were, and will be, a lot of crimes and human folly."

Why the detective novel format? "It is necessary to revisit the starting point of my writing detective stories. I date it as some months before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, when my father was assassinated in a Bulgarian hospital. It was a very, very difficult experience for me. When I arrived, after he was dead, the family was not informed of the cause of his death.

We could make no inquiry as to who was the criminal who had done it. And finally he was, without our permission, cremated, which was wholly contrary to his religious belief. It was very, very difficult for me to recover from this grief - to mourn. In this situation the detective story imposed itself on me, without any voluntary act on my part."

Since then, Kristeva has written a string of detective novels. Is it an entirely separate exericise from the academic work?" No. This is why I made the point about the 60s, and the French theoretical 'stuff'. There have always been some personal implications in my essays. But now it's a jump because I think that writing novels is a sort of process I like to call transubstantiation. There is, as I see it, a very strong linkage between words and flesh in writing fiction. It's not merely a mental activity. The whole personality is in it. You have psychology, you have belief, you have love affairs, you have sexuality, you also have a connection to language. When I'm writing novels, I am making a voyage around, or into, myself. I do it also, of course, in my essays. But my essays are a defence of my self-voyaging. In the novel, I take all the risks of the traveller, or the explorer. And I get all the pleasures as well"

· Murder in Byzantium is published by Columbia University Press, priced £19.50

Shattering Language

Julia Kristeva is interested in the subversive effects of language---discourse that confronts language and thinks it against itself, discourse (like the language of carnival) that absorbs concepts within relationships and works toward harmony all the while implying the idea of rupture as a way of transforming or breaking the code "to shatter language. . .to find specific discourse closer to the body and emotions, to the unnameable repressed by the social contract. . ." (1259-60). We asked the students in our ENG 980 "Studies in Rhetoric" course to take a Kristevan look at the following passage from the Bible (Revised Standard Edition):

1Timothy2:11-15 Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or have authority over men; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

We told them to think of language as Kristeva does, making it a productive structure by fracturing not only its meaning, but also its grammar and syntax which attempts to manage the voice of the other, thereby contributing to the "phenomenology of the lie," and by demystifying "the community of language as a universal and unifying tool." Each of three groups devised a different treatment of this passage from the Bible.

One group offered the following creation. Note the "moebius strip" in the upper left corner composed of "Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness," a continuous circuit---a closed system like the symbolic order itself. Note also the reordering of the text, the highlighting of certain words and the deletion of others. This group reworded and added new text, elevating and projecting significant sections. The text is multi-dimensional, fragmented, and non-linear. So, the "official" meaning and usual syntax are disrupted in the attempt to produce new meaning.

Another group approached the task by cutting words and phrases from the original text and placing them in quite a different order. In this order the text may be read in several different ways, depending on how the reader holds it. Some phrases will be upside-down no matter how the reader views them, some will draw the eye around the rectangle of the text, and some will remain in the usual syntactic position. In the upper left corner a significant section of the text runs diagonally across the page and off of it. The effect is to produce mutiple readings of the same text, depending on the reader and the various ways the reader chooses to view the text---very much on the order of hypertext. Also, it's difficult to distinguish nouns from verbs from prepositions in this arrangement, thus interrupting the order suggested by the lexicon. Again this group has chosen to produce new meanings by fracturing and reordering the original text and literally turning it on itself.

The third group approached the task differently. They broke the text apart and presented it in an oral performance. The female voices in the group were interwoven with a single male voice, producing a representation that reinforced the new meaning created by the group's rearrangement of the text and the layering of the voices. Click here to listen to the group's performance.

Each group worked within the patrilinear framework of the language but disrupted the usual patterns of useage to subvert the "official" meaning.

The Woman's Bible

Elizabeth Cady Stanton offered another reading of this same scripture in The Woman's Bible. She wrote this book with a committee of other women to revise the texts and chapters of the Bible which directly refer to women and .those in which women are prominently excluded because in her view, "The canon and civil law; church and state; priests and legislators; all political parties and religious denominations have alike taught that woman was made after man, of man, and for man, an inferior being, subject to man. Creeds, codes, Scriptures and statutes, are all based on this idea. The fashions, forms, ceremonies and customs of society, church ordinances and discipline all grow out of this idea" (7). Her thought was that although Bible historians claim special inspiration for the Old and New Testaments, the records are contradictory in that the miracles and events oppose all known laws, ". . .of customs that degrade the female sex of all human and animal life, stated in most questionable language. . .and call this 'The Word of God' ." Stanton's work differs from eclesiastical teaching in her interpretation only in that she does not "believe that any man ever saw or talked with God, [she does] not believe that God inspired the Mosaic code, or told the historians what they say he did about woman, for all the religions on the face of the earth degrade her, and so long as woman accepts the position that they assign her, her emancipation is impossible" (12). She sees her task as one of working within existing scripture but bases her re-interpretations on the idea that the texts were written by men who are fallible. What follows, then, is a reading of 1Timothy2:11-15 which like those above offers an alternative:

Jesus is not recorded as having uttered any similar claim that woman should be subject to man, or that in teaching she would be a usurper. The dominion of woman over man or of man over woman makes no part of the sayings of the Nazarene. He spoke so the individual soul, not recognizing sex as a quality of spiritual life, or as determining the sphere of action of either man or woman.

Stevens, in his "Pauline Theology," says: "Paul has been read as if he had written in the nineteenth century, or, more commonly, as if he had written in the fifth or seventeenth, as if his writings had no peculiarities arising from his own time, education and mental constitution." Down these nineteen centuries in a portion of the Christian Church the contempt for woman which Paul projected into Christianity has been perpetuated. The Protestant Evangelical Church still refuses to place her on an equality with man.

Although Paul said: "Neither is the man without the woman nor the woman without the man in the Lord," he taught also that the male alone is in the image of God. "For a man ought not to have his head veiled forasmuch as he is the image of God: but the woman is the glory of man." Thus he carried the spirit of the Talmud, "aggravated and re-enforced," into Christianity, represented by the following appointed daily prayer for pious Jews: "Blessed art thou, O Lord, that thou hast not made me a Gentile, an idiot nor a woman." Paul exhibits fairness in giving reasons for his peremptory mandate. "For Adam was first formed, then Eve," he says. This appears to be a weak statement for the higher position of man. If male man is first in station and authority, is superior because of priority of formation, what is his relation to "whales and every living creature that moveth which the waters bring forth, and every winged fowl after his kind," which were formed before him?

And again, "Adam was not beguiled, but, the woman being beguiled, hath fallen into transgression." There was then already existing the beguiling agency. The transgression of Eve was in listening to this existing source of error, which, in the allegory, is styled "the most subtle beast of the field which the Lord God hath made." Woman did not bring this subtle agency ino activity. She was not therefore the author of sin, as has been charged. She was tempted by her desire for the knowledge which would enable her to distinguish between good and evil. According to this story, woman led the race out of the ignorance of innocence into the truth. Calvin, the commentator, says: "Adam did not fall into error, but was overcome by the allurements of his wife." It is singular that the man, who was "first formed," and therefore superior, and to whom only God has committed the office of teaching, not only was not susceptible to the temptation to acquire knowledge, but should have been the weak creature who was "overcome by the allurements of his wife."

But the story of the fall and all cognate myths and parables are far older and more universal than the ordinary reader of the Bible supposes them to be. The Bible itself in its Hebrew form is a comparatively recent compilation and adaptation of mysteries, the chief scenes of which were sculptured on temple walls and written or painted on papyri, ages before the time of Moses. History tells us, moreover, that the Book of Genesis, as it now stands, is the work not even of Moses, but of Ezra or Esdras, who lived at the time of the captivity, between five hundred and six hundred years before our era, and that he recovered it and other writings by the process of intuitional memory. "My heart," he says, "uttered understanding, and wisdom grew in my breast: for the spirit strengthened my memory."

With regard to the particular myth of the fall, the walls of ancient Thebes, Elphantime, Edfou and Darnak bear evidnce that long before Moses taught , and cetainly ages before Esdras wrote, its acts and symbols were embodied in the religious ceremonials of the people, of whom, according to Manetho, Mses was himself a priest. And the whole history of the fall of man is, says Sharpe, in a work on Egypt, "of Egyptian origin. The temptation of the woman by the serpent, the man by the woman and the serpent, may all be seen upon the Egyptian sculptured monuments."

This symbology signifies a deeper meaning than a material garden, a material apple, a tree and a snake. It is the relation of the soul or feminine part of man, "his living mother," to the physical and external man of sense. The temptation of woman brought the soul into the limitations of matter, of the physical. The soul derives its life from spirit, the eternal substance, God. Knowledge, through the intellect alone, is of the limitation of flesh and sense. Intuition, the feminine part of reason, is the higher light. If the soul, the feminine part of man, is turned toward God, humanity is saved from the dissipations and the perversions of sensuality. Humanity is not alone dual in the two forms, male and female, but every soul is dual. The more perfect the balance in the individual of masculine and feminine, the more perfect the man or the woman. The masculine represents force, the feminine love. "Force without love can but work evil until it is spent."

Paul evidently was not learned in Egyptian lore. He did recognize the esoteric meaning of the parable of the fall. To him it was a literal fact, apparently, and Eve was to be to all womankind the transmitter of a "curse" in maternity. We know that down to the very recent date of the introduction of anesthetics the idea prevailed that travail pains are the result of, and punishment for, the transgression of Mother Eve. It was claimed that it was wrong to attempt to remove "the curse" from woman, by mitigating her suffering in that hour of peril and of agony.

Whatever Paul may mean, it is a fact that the women of our aboriginal tribes, whose living was natural and healthful, who were not enervated by civilized customs, were not subject to the sufferings of civilized women. And it has been proven by the civilized woman that a strict observance of hygienic conditions of dress, of diet, and the mode of life, reduces the pangs of parturition. Painless child-bearing is a physiological problem; and "the curse" has never borne upon the woman whose life had been in strict accord with the laws of life. Science has come to the rescue of humanity, in the recognition of the truth that the advancement as well as the conservation of the race is through the female. His audacity was sublime; but it was the audacity of ignorance.

No more stupendous demonstration of the power of thought can be imagined, than is illustrated in the customs of the Church for centuries, when in the general canons were found that "No woman may approach the altar," "A woman may not baptize without extreme necessity," "Woman may not receive the eucharist under a black veil." Under canon 81 she was forbidden to write in her own name to lay Christians, but only in the name of her husband; and women were not to receive letters of friendship from any one addressed to themselves. Canon law, framed by the priesthood, compiled as early as the ninth century, has come in effect to the nineteenth, making woman subordinate in civil law. Under canon law, wives were deprived of the control of both person and property. Canon law created marriage a sacrament "to be performed at the church door," in order to make it a source of revenue to the Church. Marriage, however, was reckoned too sinful "to be allowed for many years to take place within the sacred building consecrated to God, and deemed too holy to permit the entrance of a woman within its sacred walls at certain periods of her life" (164-168).

Rupturing with The Yellow Wallpaper

I have discovered something at last. Through watching so much at night, when it [the wallpaper} changes so, I have finally found out. The front pattern does move--and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it! Sometimes I think there are a great many women behind, and sometimes only one and she crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over. Then in the very bright spots she keeps still, and in the very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard. And she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb through that pattern--it strangles so: I think that is why it has so many heads. They get through, and then the pattern strangles them off and turns them upside down, and makes their eyes white! If those heads were covered or taken off it would not be half so bad. The Yellow Wallpaper - Charlotte Perkins Gilman

In the novel, John’s wife after having a child suffers from a “temporary nervous depression” which at the time was treated with the “rest cure” which consists of a stay in the country, complete rest, and consumption of phosphates, tonics, and other elixirs. She believes that “congenial work with excitement and change” would do her good. However, her husband the physician totally disagrees, won’t discuss the situation, and mandates the “rest cure” which is based on the knowledge of the time and the authority of Dr. Weir Mitchell, its devisor. Consequently, his wife is sent to an upper room in a large rundown country house. The ghastly wallpaper is pealing and the windows are barred. She has requested convalescence in a downstairs well-lighted room , but John in his dual hierarchical role of husband and physician ignores her requests and protestations, thus preserving the hierarchical structure and her place within that structure.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story The Yellow Wallpaper and the writing and publishing of it are examples of what Julia Kristeva defines as the new feminism and the use of language against itself to rupture the marginalizing of women. Kristeva identifies discourse which confronts language and thinks it against itself as “intertextuality” (The System 29).

John’s wife in her journal vividly depicts the impact society/culture has on women: inscripting and restricting them, “working to place the body (social or individual) under the law of writing.” The body is “itself defined, delimited, and articulated by what writes it” (de Certeau 139).The larger body influences a person and impacts the development of the material body itself. The inscriptions of society’s norms restrict if ruptures to the status quo are not attempted and/or acknowledged, entrenching hierarchical phallocentric culture and limiting rebirth often as the result of the norms being accepted as good or even truth. People are encouraged through speech and action to sustain what is “good and true” and not to challenge the norms, denying evolution and further rebirth.

John uses language to manage the other, to keep his wife in her subordinate role and disavow her ability to know what she needs. Kristeva would suggest that she disrupt the symbolic chain from her marginal position within the order. Kristeva believes that if a woman identifies with the mother, she ensures her exclusion from the marginality in relation to the patriarchal order. If, on the other hand, she identifies with the father--makes herself in his image, then she ends up becoming “him” and supporting the same patriarchal order which excludes and marginalizes her as a woman. Instead, women must work within the Law and accept sexual difference within the framework but refuse to “become one of ‘them.’” From her marginal position she needs to disrupt. If she doesn’t disrupt, the “balancing act” in between becomes too costly, with some women going mad or committing suicide (Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, and Maira Tsvetaeva). The heroine cannot seem to “break the code” which Kristeva insists needs to be accomplished (Bizzell 1259-60). John’s wife near the end of the story has three choices: either to accept her place in the normed society and hope the “rest cure” works to banish her depression (perhaps postpartum depression), or find her own provisional space or go completely insane. Sadly the latter is her outcome.

In writing about a woman’s bout with depression, its attempted cure, and her ultimate escape into madness, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s story is a rupturing from within of the patriarchal order. For Gilman to write this story at the time (about 1891) and get it published was no small task. Previous to the writing, Gilman found herself a victim of the same malady as her heroine and victim of a publishing world dominated by men.

Gilman responded to questions of why she wrote The Yellow Wallpaper in the October 1913 issue of The Forerunner explaining that for several years she had suffered with bouts of depression (Why I Wrote). After the birth of her first child in 1887, she was diagnosed as neurasthenic and sent to Dr. Weir Mitchell who prescribed the “rest cure” (Gilman, Charlotte). Physically the rest was successful and the doctors determined there was nothing much the matter, and she was sent home. She was instructed to live as “domestic a life as possible” and to have “but two hours’ intellectual life a day,” and “never to touch pen, brush, or pencil again” as long as she lived.” She went home and obeyed for three months and went almost totally insane. However, with the help of a friend, she went to work again, to a life of “joy and growth and service, with out which one is a pauper and a parasite--ultimately recovering some measure of power.” She rejoiced by writing The Yellow Wallpaper and sent a copy to the physician she claimed nearly drove her mad. “He never acknowledged it” (Why I Wrote).

The story was a rupturing of the status quo for Gilman held that man is “being held the human type; woman a sort of accompaniment and subordinate assistant, merely essential to the making of people. She has held always the place of a preposition in relation to man...before him, behind him, beside him, a wholly relative existence-- ‘Sydney’s sister,’ ‘Pembroke’s mother’--but never by any chance Sydney or Pembroke herself (qtd. in Jamieson 102). However, she had great difficulty getting her story published. She first sent her manuscript to William Dean Howells, who with some support, sent it to Horace Scudder, editor of The Atlantic Monthly, a very prestigious magazine at that time. According to Gilman’s account in her autobiography, he sent this note:

“Dear Madam, Mr. Howells has handed me this story. I could not forgive myself if I made others as miserable as I have made myself! Sincerely yours, H.E. Scudder.”

The story with its crawling mad heroine had obviously made an impression on Scudder, but he wasn’t about to let it affect the status quo. To rupture the structure and norms Gilman faced, she needed to get the story published. The New England Magazine finally published the story in 1892.

While some people responded positively to the story many did not. One responded that it was “perilous stuff,” another that it “posed a threat to relatives of such ‘deranged’ persons as the heroine” (Scudders’s). In The Transcript a physician said, “Such a story ought not to be written; it is enough to drive anyone mad to read it.” Yet another physician wrote, “It was the best description of incipient insanity he had ever seen, and-- begging my pardon--had I been there?” However, the best reaction Gilman claimed she ever got was when she was told years later that “the great specialist had admitted to friends of his that he had altered his treatment of neurasthenia since reading The Yellow Wallpaper.” In addition, one woman had claimed the story saved her from the same end as John’s wife (Why I Wrote).

Gilman used language in her novel to situate herself within and to the norm. She worked in the margins to rupture the dominant culture, to work to generate social change. Kristeva notes in her description of intertextuality that the novel has the particular “potential for embodying a ‘redistribution’ of several different sign systems” where diverse meanings overlap allowing transpositions of signifying systems (Moi). The official text needs to be broken down and the writing seen as both subjectivity and communication--writing where one reads the other (Desire in Language). Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a model of Julia Kristeva’s theory.

Linguistic Theory

Julia Kristeva's main interest is in discourse which confronts language and thinks it against itself. She focuses on the signifying process, trying to answer not only the question of exactly how language means but also what is in language that resists intelligibility and signification. She argues that structuralism, which focuses on the static phase of language and attempts to fix it and describe its details, sees it as homogeneous. Semiotics, on the other hand, which studies language as discourse articulated by a speaking subject, sees it as fundamentally heterogeneous. Influenced by Lacan and her study of psychoanalysis, she combined semiotics with analysis to create "semanalysis" which sees language as a "signifying process," at once a system and a transgression, coming from the drive-grounded basis of sound production and produced in the social space---the site of the speaking subject. "All functions which suppose a frontier (in this case the fissure created by the act of naming and the logico-linguistic synthesis which it sets off) and the transgression of that frontier (the sudden appearance of new signifying chains) are relevant to any account of signifying practice, where practice is taken as meaning acceptance of a symbolic law together with a trangression of that law for the purpose of renovating it" (The Kristeva 29).

For Kristeva, semiotics occupies a paradoxical position. It is a meta-language---a language which speaks about language and, therefore, homogenizes its object in its own discourse. But, at the same time, semiotics insists on the heterogeneity of language. The semiotician, thus, finds herself caught, forced to analyze her own discursive position while at the same time renewing her connection with the heterogeneous forces of language. These forces, in her view, make it a productive structure. ". . .thus poetic language making free with the language code; music, dancing, painting, reordering the psychic drives which have not been harnessed by the dominant symbolization systems. . .all seek out and make use of this heterogeneity and the ensuing fracture of a symbolic code which can no longer 'hold' its (speaking) subjects" (30). Semanalysis, then, is a way of thinking about language which has the potential to subvert established beliefs in authority and order.

"Word, Dialogue, and Novel" from her work entitled Desire in Language shows the particular influence of the writings of Mikhail Bakhtin on Kristeva's work. Actually, she was one of the first to introduce Bakhtin's theories to the West. Her insistence upon the importance of the speaking subject as the primary object for linguistic analysis is itself rooted in "dialogism" and her own active dialogue with Bakhtin's texts. According to Kristeva, Bakhtin saw the literary word as an intersection of textual surfaces rather than as a fixed point or meaning---as a dialogue among various texts: the writer's, the character's, and the historical cultural context. Each word (or text) is an intersection of words or texts where at least one other word or text can be read; the horizontal axis composed of the writer-character intersects the vertical axis composed of the text-context. Any text, therefore, is double---both "an absorption and a transformation of another." This reading of Bakhtin's dialogism led to her own idea of " intertextuality ," identifying writing as both subjectivity and communication---writing where "one reads the other." Poised between structuralism and post-structuralism, Kristeva was also interested in the way structuralism's "pure" categories break down in circumstances where language is ambivalent, subversive, and mocking as in the tradition of carnival which Bakhtin described in his work on Rabelais. In the space of carnival, the official text broke down when it confronted the text of carnival (and Rabelais' rabble-rousing). Great potential exists within carnival where prohibition (the monologic) and transgression (the dialogic) co-exist. Language both parodies and relevatizes itself, thereby repudiating its role in representation. Dialogism situates philosophical problems within language, language as a correlation of texts. It does not strive toward transcendence; it absorbs concepts within relationships, working toward harmony while implying the idea of RUPTURE as a way of transforming. In examining the "ambivalence" of spectacle and of lived experience itself, the potental for rupture between them becomes possible. Culture, thus, can forsake itself to go beyond itself. The novel and other ambivalent literary structures, then, provide the basis for new intellectual structures. Interest in the subversive effects of language grounded her later interest in the politics of marginality.


In Revolution and Poetic Language, Kristeva's thesis for her Doctorat d'Etat, she further developed her concept of intertextuality. To the two processes Freud identified as being at work in the unconscious, displacement and condensation, Kristeva added a third process, "the passage from one sign system to another." Inherent in this process she saw an alteration of the thetic phase of language involving the destruction of the old system and the forming of a new one. The new system may use the same or different signifying materials, as in "carnival" as described by Bakhtin. She argued that the novel particularly exhibited the potential for embodying a "redistribution" of several different sign systems. "Intertextuality," then, is a specific type of coextension in which a variety of diverse meanings overlap; it refers to the transposition of one or more sign systems into another or a "field" of transpositions of many signifying systems. The novel provides a particularly good space for this phenomenon to occur.

The Old Man and the Wolves

This interview was conducted by Bernard Sichere and was first published in a 1992 issue of L'Infini. It appeared in an English translation by Leon Roudiez in Partisan Review. Although the interview is based on Kristeva's second novel, The Old Man and The Wolves, much of the conversation addresses politics and contemporary culture. This interview shows Kristeva at her most pessimistic, describing a world tainted with pain, disorder, mourning, violence, apathy, depression, barbarity, and banality. She defends her idea of a contemporary "civilizational crisis," supporting it with her account of a recent trip to Moscow. Commenting on contemporary intellectual life, Kristeva claims that we must free ourselves from "consensual ideology" and "moralizing, euphoric discourses," adapting instead an "analytic, relentless position" that takes negativity into account. Although she acknowledges that psychoanalysis needs to confront some serious issues (excessive literalism, internal power struggles, the media's appropriation of psychoanalytic jargon, the rapid growth of psychopharmacology), she contends that it continues to furnish us with a "living discourse." At the end of the interview, she claims that the age-old dichotomy between the "right wing" and the "left wing" may no longer be relevant, and she lambastes a political culture in which no one admits guilt. She challenges "writers," as opposed to "intellectuals," to reinvent the political realm, "even to circumvent it." Speaking specifically about her novel, Krisreva notes that the Santa Barbara she describes combines the collapse of the East and the malaise and banality of the West. Suggesting that her novel serves as an antidote to "a deep crisis in language," she describes it as a "grafting of what comes from another culture, another mentality, onto the language I adopt and that I assume welcomes me." Also addressed are the characters of Stephany. whose "truth-seeking" is said to counterbalance the overarching negativity of the novel, the couple Alba and Vespasian, and the Old Man, whom Krisreva affecrionately likens to her father.

Two features of your second novel distinguish it from the first, it seems to me. Thematically, there was in The Samurai a sort of emphasis on the positive aspects of the main character as well as on her intellectual, erotic, and domestic journey, whereas The Old Man and the Wolves brings to the fore a dark, negative dimension, an outlook on the world that is more pessimistic. The second feature involves form: why is there, in this new narrative, a scrambling of codes and genres (clipped dialogue, allegory, first-person narrative), and such an increase in the variety of voices, so many metaphors?

In connection with what you call negativity, I would refer to Holderlin's well-known query, "Wozu Dichter in durftiger Zeit?" and rephrase it by asking, "Of what use are novels in times of distress?" The thrust of my new book stems from the conjunction of the personal shock of mourning (the death of my father, who was killed in a Sofia hospital through the incompetence and brutality of the medical and political system) and a public unease—the acknowledgment, which was indeed barely present in my first novel, of a general disarray in a society—to begin with, our own. As a psychoanalyst (that is one of my frames of reference), I am sensitive to the collapse of minimal values and the rejection of elementary moral principles. I found it imperative to choose the form of the novel instead of a theoretical form (as was the case in my earlier essays), because I realized that the novel form was a better way to portray that distress. On the other hand, within the novel form metaphore operates, giving form to infantile psychic inscriptions that are located on the border of the unnamable. On the other hand, by elaborating intrigue one enacts the dramatic essence of passion, the intolerable aspect of love as it is necessarily coupled with hatred. In comparison, the ability of theoretical discourse to rake on metaphore and intrigue seemed to be far behind the form of the novel. Recent French novels most often reject metaphor and avoid drama: "good taste" demands a certain amount of restraint. For my part, I have not ceased reading Proust: "Truth shall arise only at the moment when the writer, raking two different objects, will posit their relation [. . .] in a metaphor. The relation might be uninteresting, the object mediocre, the style awful, but so long as that has not taken place, there is nothing there."'

The allegorical dimension, for instance, which is indeed central in The Old Man and the Wolves, needs to be understood in that context. In contrast to The Samurai, my second novel is anchored in a pain to which allegory aims to give significance without fixing it, instead irradiating it, having it vibrate, in an oneiric way, according to each reader's personal framework of ordeals and choices. Thus the fictional city in the novel, Santa Barbara, might be located in the heart of Central or Eastern Europe, but it also suggests an American megalopolis, or some continental city: it harbors a fountain that strangely resembles the one at the Pompidou Center, and the Oasis Bar in the novel brings to mind a rather fashionable spot in San Francisco. Santa Barbara's very name suggests to me first the surrounding barbarity but also, by alluding to an American television series, the surfeited elements of American society and that vulgarization which constitutes one of the aspects of contemporary, savagery. In short, the novel's negative diagnosis first applies to the collapse in the former Communist countries of Europe, but at the same rime I did not want to exclude the West, the malaise of our society.

And the wolves? To what extent does this key metaphor illustrate (beyond its explicit reference to book I of Ovid's Metamorphoses) what you have just said?

Those threatening wolves, setting wildly upon their victims, recall the invasion of the Red Armies, the establishment of totalitarianism—my readers in Eastern Europe have had no problem identifying them. More deviously, the wolves are contagious; they infect people to the extent that one can no longer make out their human faces. They symbolize everyone's barbarity, everyone's criminality. They finally signify the invasion of banality, which erases the entire criterion of value amid the racketeering, corruption, wheeling and dealing.

Nevertheless, making all-pervasive violence or barbarity contemporary doesn't play off only on the level of the wolves. It also is reflected in the narrative fragmentation in the novel that you mentioned, in the multiplicity of codes and voices. In the novel's Santa Barbara, which is comparable to the declining Roman Empire, history cannot unfold in a naive, indubitable manner, nor can the characters themselves embody stable identities. Hence the presence of Doppelganger in the book: the Professor and the narraror's father, but also Alba and the other Alba who is discovered drowned. The shiftings in the narrative, the duplication and dissemination of identities, refer to the obvious fact that we are experiencing contemporary culture in a process of metamorphosis. Does it have to do with the return of the gods, as set our by Heidegger? Does it involve another fictional experience, and if so, which one? For the time being we are in the gothic roman noir.

But doesn't the book's shift to the first-person narrative, spoken by Stephany, the investigator, change the perspective from the dark, negative dimensions we have just conjured up?

Absolutely. Stephany doesn't play her part on the same level as the orhers. As soon as she speaks, the oneiric, confused universe of the novel's first section assumes the shape of a detective novel; it means that a crime has been committed and that it is possible to unravel the truth about this crime. A trurh-seeking effort takes place, thanks to Srephany Delacour, who will show up again in other episodes, for in the book there are a series of mystery, novels. So the "twilight of the gods" that makes up the first part of the novel acquires a meaning in the second part, which is simply the setting of a course, the shaping of a plot: it is possible to know. Henceforth, an ethics of knowledge, let us say, is involved. Consequently, I feel that to call my novel pessimistic is inaccurate. As long as the investigation is being carried out, the crime is challenged, and death does nor prevail. Stephany introduces the vigilance that is the resistant force of life, if not of hope. In the third section of the book, Stcphany imposes her diary upon the mystery novel, as a counterpoint.

Her subjective experience, her sensibility as a woman, a child, a lover is a veritable counterweight to death and hatred. If Srephany is able to undertake this investigative work and confront crime, it is because she doesn't ignore her personal experience, because she is plunged to a point of rapture, and not without cruelty, into the pain that mourning imposes on us: mourning for her own father, until then repressed, awakens on the occasion of the Old Man's mourning. As a consequence, the character of the journalist-detective introduces a certain psychoanalytic tonality in the book. Without this interior space sculpted out by mourning but given shape by other erotic upheavals— for mourning is an eroticism full of undulations, without the smooth visage of joy—no working-out of truth is possible. No investigation, no knowledge. Some based their aesthetics, for example, on Goethe, others on Rousseau, or Rimbaud; I consider myself a contemporary Freud. A possible wager: what about a novel that would be cognizant of Freud. Is such a novel possible? Would it attract readers? For my part, it is enough that the novel is disturbing.

The barbarity you alluded to earlier seems to me to be essential. Part of the opposition your book has encountered, I'm sure, has to do with its illumination of what is unbearable in our society, with people recognizing themselves. As I was reading the 600k—and what you have just said confirms it—I f ound two images of barbarity; criminality, violence, on the one hand, and on the other what you have termed "banality. " Coul you tell us a little more? To what extent does this duality reflect the distinction suggested by Guy Debark in Commentaire sur la sociere du spectacle between the "integrated spectacular" germane to the Western democratic societies and the archaic survival of tyrannic forms that, a short time ago, characterized communist societies?

'The Old Man and the Wolves is set in Santa Barbara—a city that also evokes the violence of our own societies, their racketeering and delinquency. At the same time violence has become banalized, a trivialization that is no less frightening. The psychoanalyst detects it in the speech of certain patients. We are basically dealing with the image of a depression that integrates aggression but under the ruinous guise of an erasure of meaning. That is what I depict in the character of Alba. Alba is one of those depressed persons who considers herself to be "void of meaning." She views her actions as neutralized, impossible to describe,even in the extreme, murderous facets that they might exhibit. A true depression of meaning itself takes place, and the insignificance into which the melancholy person sinks is not merely an individual, "pathological" occurrence. Because of its amplitude, it assumes the seriousness of a societal event, a civilization crisis. I should like to add something about the nature and the extent of that crisis. I have just come back from Moscow, where I have a series of lectures at the French Studies Institute in Moscow's Lomonosov University. I was struck by the pervasive crisis over there, the way in which it seemed to be the very realization of the crisis I portrayed in The Old Man and the Wolves. I recognized Santa Barbara. No one any longer respects authority; no one any longer occupies the seat of power, particularly in the university, where there are students but no semblance of rules and regulations; and no one is in charge. I am puzzled by contemporary studies of Soviet or Russian society that, knowingly or nor, minimize the extent of the catastrophe, which is not only economic but also ethical. In the face of such general decay, there is at the moment a massive regressive return to religion, which effectively serves as a solace but also a way to flee reality. The French Institute, which, on the other hand, enrolls a large number of very qualified and crirical-minded students who are eager to learn, constitutes a fortunate exception in that landscape. Basically, the most disquieting symptom, here as well as over there, the major consequence of which I have called banality, is the tendency that could result in a loss of interest in the psyche. In Western societies today, the most common temptation is to prescribe medicine to appease people's anguish rather than guide them to confront the pain of living. In this respect, I refer, in The Old Man and the Wolves, to Holderlin's Der Tod des Empedokes [The death of Empedocles] and Mnemosyne, from which the Old Man explicitly quotes, to the waning of the gods, which arouses in the Old Man a strange mixture of nostalgia, doubt, and fear. On the other hand, Alba in her own evil fashion rakes up a theme dear to Heidegger: the "protective heed" provided by being. Alba perverts the heed. She believes that paroxysmal conflict carried to the point of hatred is the only truth. That is her very own punctilious nihilism. She hates without feeling guilty, she ends up untouchable, "at home," proud within the supposed truth of her hatred. That is the dreadful part of it--the unscathed conscience, with neither unease nor hardship, present at the very core of hatred, which might go as far as murder. Within the reverberations of Holderlin and Heidegger, to which the Old Man and Alba harken again, the insistence of the question remains. In opposition, what strikes me in today's world, and this is why I speak of the loss of interest in the psyche, is the feeling that the very possibility of questioning has been closed. We have become unscathed in evil just as one might have been immaculate in love.

Fiction: The Samurai

In this interview, Kristeva speaks candidly and at length about The Samurai her first novel. The interview was published in an issue of L'lnfini, and the translation is by Ross Guberman. Kristeva explains why she wrote The Samurai and describes it as "popular" and "polyphonic."

With The Samurai, your first novel, you set aside theoretical writing and turned to fiction. How do you account for this shift from theory to the novel?

I was recently reading the manuscripts of Proust's notebooks, and I came across a question he asks in one of his drafts: "Should I make this into a novel or into a philosophical study?" People have always wondered if they should treat a subject that interests them through theory or through fiction. Is there really a choice to be made? Must we prefer one form of discourse to the other? If we think of more recent writers, we realize that Being and Nothingness did not prevent Sartre from writing Nausea. And Merleau-Ponty, who was less committed than Sartre or perhaps committed in a different way, planned to write a novel although he never did so. The imaginary could be understood to be the deep structure of concepts along with their underlying systems. The core of the symbolic lies in the fundamental drives of the signifier, that is, in sensations, perceptions, and emotions. When we translate them, we leave the realm of ideas and enter the world of fiction, which is why I sought to describe the emotional lives of intellectuals. You will forgive me, moreover, for believing that the genius of the French people is rooted in the links they make between popular passions and the dynamics of intellectual tensions. This close relationship exists nowhere else, yet certain time periods, particularly those plagued by national depression, such as our own, place a greater distance between intellectuals and the rest of the world. I thus tried to give nonspecialists a taste of what intellectuals do and what they are like. Finally, the lewd and pervasive influence of television has forced literature to go back and forth between documentation and invention and between autobiography and fiction. Yet because the whole truth can never be known—at least, this is what psychoanalysis along with other disciplines has taught us—inserting a bit of autobiography into a narrative guarantees a grounding in reality. At the same time, another piece, a fictional one, serves as a magnet for the intense subjective bonds that connect the narrator to other people as well as to himself. As opposed to the autobiographical piece, this fictional piece releases a certain discretion and modesty while transforming real-life characters into literary models.

Why did you wait so long to shift the focus of your work to fiction?

When I finished writing my book, I realized that I had needed to acquire enough distance from myself to become a "character" before I could become an "author." And my experience with psychoanalysis may have made me aware of the banality of life and the insipid richness of everyday language, which may have enabled me to take a step back from the symbolic asceticism of theory—for the time being, that is.

In which fictional genre would you place The Samurai?

I wanted to write a popular novel This may come as a surprise, especially because I wrote a story about intellectual circles. Let me explain what I mean. For me, a popular novel is a sensual and metaphysical narrative. I mean "popular" in the sense of Victor Hugo's phrase, "That enormous crowd eager for the pure sensations of art." Today, the crowds seem to be even more enormous and eager because they are so overtly targeted by the mass media. I mean "popular" in the sense of Mallarme's concern for the "necessary anecdote demanded by the public." I mean "popular" in the sense of Celine's claim that "in the beginning was emotion." I wanted to rely on language to reach an infralinguistic and infraconceptual experience consisting of emotion, sensation, and perception, an experience that could correspond to the conventions of the avant-garde and that could take shape as a source of jouissance that often remains hidden although it is occasionally acknowledged. I thus took note of Mallarme's declaration of his aesthetic project: In fact, it is to prolong, joyfully if possible, something for eternity. Let it be!" When a state of enthusiasm is attained through immediate access to an undecidable experience that appears to be less concerned with formal problems, it serves as a magnet of joy, anguish, and pain. In sum, such a state is a fusion of Eros and Thanatos seeking to create what is traditionally known as a "catharsis" for the reader as well as for the author. To put it another way, I wanted to reach the sensory core of language by sifting through a network of memories and fantasies. While I was writing my novel, I gave a course on Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception and on Proust. I had the feeling that The Samurai offered me a way to put into practice what I was trying to communicate theoretically to my students: the connivance between words and sensory rapture. So I wrote a story about intellectual creation, the conflicts that marked the years between 1965 and 1990, and the rise and fall of different theories and intellectual preoccupations: structuralism, psychoanalysis, political positions and experiments, religions, ecology (immersion in the mother-of-pearl reflection of a salty marsh or in the beautiful birds inhabiting an island), but also feminism, motherhood, an often burning or obscene intimacy.... The theoretical project, the "novel of ideas," never truly disappears from the novel, but it becomes increasingly intimate and personal as the novel goes along. The story becomes simply subjective, microscopic—and ethical.

Does the story become incarnate?

Yes, particularly in the experience of motherhood, which is rejected by Carole and chosen by Olga, who views it as a quasi-pantheistic accomplishment . . . My desire to reconstruct the sensory basis of language made me a great admirer of Colette. As to the theme of intellectual maturation, I was moved by the reflections on the body depicted in Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain. Mann's novel is not very well known to French readers, who fear the weightiness of German literature, but the character of Hans Castorp is confronted with an ill body just as the Samurai contemplate erotic bodies. That said (am I simply echoing avant-garde thought here?), I sought not to build a mountain but to construct fragments, discontinuities, unexpected links, and reciprocal relationships among characters, places, and discourses. I wanted the emblem of my book to be not a mountain but an island, a secret island where characters could meet, an island open to all winds, the winds of other chapters as well as the winds of the interpretations that readers would use to fill the empty space between narrative sequences.

How do you think your writing compares with the ‘neutral writing"[e'criturc Blanche] that Blanchot and Barthes discuss?

Roland Barthes's Writing Degree Zero, a book I have discussed at length and continue to admire, successfully delineates the most rigorous currents of postwar literature. With "neutral writing," the writer acts as a technician of words, a sort of Orpheus (as Blanchot says) who crosses the river Styx into Hades, the hell of daily life. Along the way, he collects a few rare trophies that he transposes onto a sparse poetic text through ellipses and litotes. This sort of writing condenses impossibilities; according to Barthes, it "outlines in detail the breakup of bourgeois consciousness." I would add that it outlines in detail the breakup of all consciousness by collecting the fragments that remain and by extracting minute, modest, and extremely sparse races. Our silent anguish latches onto dhese traces, and when we experience psychic catastrophes, evidence chat they exist is what enables us to survive. We see this process at work, for instance, in the writings of Samuel Beckett. These two forms of writing do not entail the same relationship to meaning . . . The version I call Plutonian" is more similar to contagious writing, the postmodern, communicable writing I mentioned earlier while discussing the "popular" novel. What is more, the fusion between Eros and Thanatos that inspired The Samurai dearly stems from Freud's conception of the psyche, a conception that precludes any idea of a rational power rooted in an existential demand. None of the characters in The Samurai could say that Shell is other people," for hell is inside us. Similarly, no one can ask, "Should we burn Sade?" because Sade burns inside us. Acknowledging such cruel truths may open a path to "neutral" writing, but striving for a more immediate and cathartic contagiousness and communicability can also pave the way for a writing marked by the plenitude and abundance of joy and suffering. Childlike and infantile, this sort of writing may respond to the eternal childhood lurking inside us and to our need for ghost stories and fairy tales. In The Samurai, Olga writes a children's book called The Samurai. (Guberman, Ross Mitchell. ed. Julia Kristeva Interviews. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.) [source]