Choreographing the Borderline: Dancing with Kristeva

By Hall, Joshua M. | Philosophy Today, February 2012 | Go to article overview

Choreographing the Borderline: Dancing with Kristeva


Hall, Joshua M., Philosophy Today


In this essay I investigate Kristeva's conception of dance in regard to the trope of the borderline. I will begin with her explicit treatments of dance, the earliest of which occurs in Revolution in Poetic Language, in terms of (a) her analogy between poetry and dance as practices erupting on the border of chora and society, (b) her presentation of dance as a phenomenon bordering art and religion in rituals, and (c) her brief remarks on dance gesturality.1 I will then follow this latter movement to the 1969 essay "Gesturality," to critically examine where Kristeva situates the powers and limits of gesture (and thereby dance) in relation to language.2 Next, I will move to the later text, The Sense and Non-Sense of Revolt, where the image of dance figures prominently in what I will term Kristeva's joyful re-choreographing of Freud's text Totem and Taboo? I will also see how her treatment of dance links more directly to Kristeva's feminist concerns, insofar as she understands the process of choreography as a kind of maternal function neglected in most psychoanalytic thought.4

Kristeva opens Revolution in Poetic Language by defining her focus as the process or production of language as opposed to the finished product, a process laid bare by a poetic discourse that is itself a "shattering of discourse" which "can display the productive basis of subjective and ideological signifying formations - a foundation that primitive societies call 'sacred' and modernity has rejected as 'schizophrenia' ."5 This linkage of poetry and art to religion or the sacred should be noted, because it is one to which I will return throughout my investigation. Not only modern poetry, but various other types of discourse, "fragmentary phenomena" from "the arts, religion, and rites" play this shattering role according to Kristeva's analysis. "Magic, shamanism, esoterism, the carnival, and 'incomprehensible' poetry all underscore the limits of socially useful discourse and attest to what it represses: the process that exceeds the subject and his communicative structures. . . . We shall call this heterogeneous practice significance."6 The most important aspect of "signifiance" to understand is its dual modalities: the semiotic and the symbolic.

As is frequently the case with creative philosophers, it is difficult to find a clear and concise explication of these two crucial concepts in Kristeva's writing. A near-infinite number of allusions, illustrations, metaphors, and extended discussions, but no definitions; for this reason, turning briefly to the secondary literature seems warranted. Kelly Oliver characterizes the semiotic as "drives as they make their way into language; associated with rhythm and tone, nonreferential."7 The semiotic is the body becoming mind, soma meeting psyche, the process that generates reference without itself being referential. The symbolic, in turn, according to Oliver, is the "position of judgment that makes reference possible; associated with grammar and syntax, referential."8 The symbolic is a kind of break in the semiotic production of signification.

Put differently, the semiotic is the natural bodily process that infuses the symbolic's artificial, intellectual product. The semiotic is productive, creative, self-multiplying, and possesses a kind of temporal, musical ordering function. The symbolic is organizational, editorial, self-unifying, and possesses a kind of spatial, architectural ordering function. The semiotic is the fire in the symbolic blood. The process character of the semiotic makes it impossible to freeze it into a sufficiently immobile state for analysis; this is probably the main reason Kristeva never offers a simple definition of it. Additionally, the editing function of the symbolic makes it difficult, but not impossible, to see the semiotic flow at work; opportunities arise, for example, in language at its most creative, as in poetry.

It seems that dance, taken in three different senses of die word, could be understood to belong essentially to the semiotic, the symboUc, and the borderline between them, respectively. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Choreographing the Borderline: Dancing with Kristeva
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.