Reading Kristeva: Unraveling the Double-Bind

Reading Kristeva: Unraveling the Double-Bind

Reading Kristeva: Unraveling the Double-Bind

Reading Kristeva: Unraveling the Double-Bind

Synopsis

¿ . . . a thorough, detailed, and critical analysis of the writings of Julia Kristeva.¿ ¿Elizabeth GroszThe complex and provocative theories of the French philosopher and psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva are clearly and thoroughly explicated by Kelly Oliver in this first full-scale feminist interpretation of Kristeva¿s work. Situating Kristeva within the context of French feminism, Oliver guides her readers through Kristeva¿s intellectual formation in linguistics, Freud, Lacan, and poetics. Oliver¿s readings of Kristeva indicate ways in which controversial concepts such as the semiotic, abjection, the maternal function, herethics, and the imaginary father can be useful for feminist theory. Oliver shows that Kristeva¿s writings attempt to unravel the double-bind between static identity, or totalitarianism, on the one hand, and the complete loss of identity, or delirium, on the other. This comprehensive introduction to Kristeva makes accessible her important contributions to philosophy, linguistics, and psychoanalytic feminism.

Excerpt

At the start of this project I began a fairly straightforward critique of Kristeva's theories. But the more that I read and the more that I wrote, the more sympathetic I became to her project. As soon as I came to some conclusion about one of her theories, I would read a passage that would convince me of something else. In terms of traditional philosophical discourse I might say that Kristeva's writing is full of contradictions. But hers is not a discourse that strictly adheres to the logic of noncontradiction. Rather, hers is a discourse that breaks the law of noncontradiction upon which traditional notions of identity are built. Kristeva's writing challenges traditional notions of identity. This is what opens up the possibility of interpretation.

The extreme views expressed in the secondary literature on Kristeva's writing are evidence of the way in which her writing opens itself to interpretation. For example, some of her critics argue that Kristeva's theory presents an essentialist notion of woman and the feminine (Silverman, Stone, Kuykendall, Grosz); others argue that it undermines any essentialist notion of woman (Ainley, Rose). Some of Kristeva's critics argue that her theory is founded on an essentialist conception of maternity (Grosz, Jones, Butler, Kuykendall, Fraser, Stanton); others argue that her notion of maternity is double and indeterminate (Ainley, Ziarek, Chase). Some critics argue that she promotes anarchy (Smith, Eagleton); others argue that her theories are conservative or even fascist (Fraser, Jones, Leland, Gidal). Some critics argue that her theories open up the possibility of change (Ainley, Chanter, Rose, Jardine); others argue that they close off the possibility of change (Fraser, Leland, Grosz, Gidal). Some critics argue that her theories are ahistorical (Fraser, Butler); others argue that her work is fundamentally concerned with the history of social structures (Lechte, Chanter). Some critics argue that Kristeva does not provide for a female or political agency (Kuykendall, Fraser); others argue that she does (Jardine, Rose). Some critics argue that her theories are useful for feminism . . .

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