This special issue of Studies in the Literary Imagination on the influence of the prominent philosopher, psychoanalyst, and novelist Julia Kristeva on twentieth-century women writers offers a selection of essays by American, British, Bulgarian-Cypriot, Finnish, Greek-Cypriot, and Polish-Canadian scholars. Almost as an uncanny nod to Kristeva’s own unorthodox personal and academic history, which is most often singularly on the border of disciplines and genres, the contributors’ training and academic interests range from literature to linguistics to philosophy to psychoanalysis to religious studies.
Sexuality and gender as structured through language, the imprint of desire upon life, the instances of the unconscious that escape the censorship of the repressed to reappear in language, and the complex net of reading/writing/creativity and intertextuality: these are some of the key issues that the present essays explore. The shared interest of the contributors in the psychic life and gendered existence of the individual and in the reinterpretation of literary texts matches the perennial interest in Kristeva and her continuous return both in her theoretical and fictional works and in her basic yet overwhelming questions about our humanity. Kristeva’s voice has been influential among scholars for some forty years now despite the numerous debates her work engenders and the criticism she continuously faces on both sides of the Atlantic. The authors in this special issue seek to re-examine yet again the theoretical work of the philosopher and psychoanalyst as well as the fictional work of the novelist Kristeva, and to pit that corpus against the texts of influential twentieth-century writers including Toni Morrison, Sylvie Courtine-Denamy, Jean Rhys, Angela Carter, Zinaida Gippius, and Liudmila Vilkina.
In his essay “The Monstrous Crossroads of Kristeva’s Textual Practice,” Dawid Kołoszyc offers a comprehensive analysis of Kristeva’s theory and textual practices vis-à-vis the textual practices of two important French thinkers of the twentieth century, Maurice Blanchot and Jacques Derrida, who have made important contributions to critical theory and the interpretation of literature. Kołoszyc highlights the points of convergence between the three thinkers and argues that Kristeva’s textual practice can be understood [End Page v] as an ongoing crisscrossing and negotiation between two seemingly opposite views of reading and writing: Blanchot’s conceptualization of the reading and writing practices as a “descent into the silent, bottomless abyss of the text” and Derrida’s “endless movement across the textual surface through deferral, dissemination, iterability, and supplementarity” (2). Kołoszyc also reviews some of the key concepts in Kristeva’s corpus—the widely discussed chora and semanalysis and also the important ideas of productivity and intertextuality that are integral to the understanding of her theoretical and fictional work.
In an interview, Kristeva comments on contemporary art and points out that it examines types of “fragility,” the fragility of “perversion, that is, all sorts of sexual transgressions” (“Interview”). Literature especially is a strong material testimony for the existence of such transgressions made public by means of the aesthetic use of language. Kristeva further explains,
This is ever the case with literature and when it does not try to treat perversion, it deals with psychotic states, that is, the states of identity loss, the loss of language, the borderline cases which cohabit and coexist with delirium and violence, but all of this does not have to bear the imprint of something negative.(“Interview”)
It seems that Kristeva pinpoints here the most important common feature between literature and psychoanalysis: both fields explore the existential difficulties entailed by the precipitation of the subject, in life as well as on the pages of a book. For those who have followed her writing closely through the years, this kind of research in subject-becoming is embedded unambiguously into another important discourse—the discourse of love. If in her early work Revolution in Poetic Language Kristeva analyzes the linguistic aspect of human interaction, her books in the 1980s, Powers of Horror, Tales of Love, and Black Sun, turn to the affective aspects of human existence. Kristeva recaptures in her later texts too this double bind between language and affect that structures the process of subject-becoming.
Love, psychoanalysis, and literature...