Contents of spoon-archives/french-feminism.archive/Lubbock.abstracts/ogrady
Will the Real Julia Kristeva Please Stand Up?
by Kathleen O'Grady
Trinity College, University of Cambridge
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Julia Kristeva's impact on current feminist theory is significant,
yet her relationship to feminism has always been marked by ambivalence.
Kristeva has never taken the title of "feminist" herself, and her critics
have continuously labelled her work as everything from anti-feminist
propaganda to radical feminist theory, from a conservative alliance with
traditional psychoanalytic theory to a revolutionary reassessment of the
psychoanalytic project. Her most recent work continues to obscure rather
than clarify her position to feminism.
Footnotes provide some of the most fascinating examples of what
an age of critics do not fully comprehend about the philosophy they claim
to explicate. A footnote is often a deliberate method of marginalizing
that aspect of a philosopher's work which cannot be comfortably
assimilated into the schema of the commentator. In Kristeva's case, a
glance at the footnotes by her feminist readers will demonstrate that many
seem bewildered by her return to religious and theological concerns.
While texts like "Women's Time" and About Chinese Women continue to
generate discussion, commentators have quickly labelled Kristeva's texts
on religion as "embarrassing", "pie-in-the-sky", "fantasy" and
In my paper I will argue that several major commentators
on Kristeva have overlooked or pointedly ignored her writings on
theological issues. Texts that focus specifically on theology and
religion have been dismissed or cast aside by most feminist critics, and
consigned only to the occasional footnote. In my paper I will demonstrate
that much of the confusion concerning Kristeva's relationship to feminism
and the all too common attacks of essentialism and sexism arise directly
from the exclusion of Kristeva's theological writings from an examination
of her other works.
In my paper I indicate that by truncating the religious dimension
of Kristeva's philosophy a reader risks misunderstanding the import and
scope of her entire project. While critics from the fields of divinity,
theology and religious studies have long included these writings in their
discussions of Kristeva, they often employ Kristevan philosophy to
buttress their own religious beliefs. In my paper I suggest that there
has yet to be an exhaustive study of Kristeva's religious writings from a
non-faith perspective, that is, an examination of the relation between
Kristeva's semiotic, psychoanalytic and theological texts, not to augment
an already established theology, but to understand more fully Kristeva's
philosophical, ethical, and (clearly) feminist project. And, in addition,
by delineating the grounds on which feminist critics have marginalize
Kristeva's "theological" writings I also indicate some of the shortcomings
implicit in much of contemporary feminist criticism itself.
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