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Dostoyevsky in the Face of Death

or Language Haunted by Sex

Julia Kristeva. Translated by Armine Kotin Mortimer.

Columbia University Press 2023

    Poetic, stunning, fascinating, and deeply insightful, Kristeva’s readings of Dostoyevsky are as much about us and our time as they are about him and his works. This book is a celebration of literature and language as an antidote to the extremes of nihilism and fundamentalism that still threaten us today.

    Kelly Oliver, philosopher, novelist, and professor emerita, Vanderbilt University


    The full force of Julia Kristeva’s lifetime of (psycho)analyzing revolutionary writers and speaking beings come together in this masterful analysis of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s life and work. Dostoyevsky’s polyphonic novels, as Kristeva brilliantly shows, exemplify the human capacity for sublimation. Decades before Freud’s discovery of the unconscious and its primary processes, Dostoyevsky was very deliberately wielding the sting of the negative, turning demons into words, new meanings, and art.

    Noëlle McAfee, author of Fear of Breakdown: Politics and Psychoanalysis


    Julia Kristeva is professor emerita of linguistics at the Université de Paris VII. A renowned psychoanalyst, philosopher, and linguist, she has written dozens of books spanning semiotics, political theory, literary criticism, gender and sex, and cultural critique, as well as several novels and autobiographical works, published in English translation by Columbia University Press. Kristeva was the inaugural recipient of the Holberg International Memorial Prize in 2004 “for innovative explorations of questions on the intersection of language, culture, and literature.”

    Armine Kotin Mortimer is professor emerita of French literature at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is the translator of Julia Kristeva’s novel The Enchanted Clock (Columbia, 2018) and the recipient of an NEA Translation Fellowship.




    Part I: The Flood of Language
    1. The Condemned Man, the Sacred Malady, and the Sun
    2. Dostoyevsky, “Author of My Life”
    3. In the Steps of the Liberated Convict
    4. Beyond Neurosis
    5. The God-Man, the Man-God
    6. The Purloined Letter
    7. Everything Is Permitted
    Part II: A Carnivalesque Theologian
    8. The Russian Virus
    9. Christocentrism
    10. The Pleasures of Evil and Misfortune
    11. The National Christ
    12. Catholicism, Atheism, Nihilism
    13. The Nihilist Seeking God
    14. Laughter, Spokesperson for the Obscene
    15. “The Novel Is a Poem”



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