Head Cases: Julia Kristeva on Philosophy and Art in Depressed Times, by Elaine P. Miller


JKEdinburgh University Press, 2011

Brigit Schippers provides a very readable and balanced account of the complex relations between Kristeva's thought and contemporary feminism. While making some telling criticisms of Kristeva, Schippers reads her recent philosophy of freedom and revolt - against the grain - as a feminist philosophy and succeeds in making Kristeva's ideas productive for feminist political thinking. -- Alison Stone, Reader in European Philosophy, Lancaster University

In order to address the conflicting range of feminist responses to Kristeva's key ideas and equally conflicting as well as ambiguous relationship to feminism, Schippers makes a case for Kristeva's important contribution to a feminist project, which is sympathetic towards her account of fluid subjectivity and her critique of identity politics.


JKCrescent Moon Publishing; 4th edition, 2010

Since moving to Paris in the 1960s, Kristeva has risen in stature in intellectual circles so that she is now regarded as one of the most important thinkers of the contemporary era.


For Julia Kristeva, love embodies both the semiotic and the symbolic, both knowledge and joy (pace Baruch de Spinoza), both language and affect. Kristeva has written of love in a way that is not facile, demeaning, banal, stereotypical, sexist or pornographic. Her pronouncements on love are quite different from those in the 'classic' texts of love, such as Ovid's poems, or the mediæval Art of Love, or Elizabethan sonnet sequences, or Stendhal's De l'Amour, or Denis de Rougement's L'Amour et l'occident (Love in the Western World). When Kristeva writes -

Vertigo of identity, vertigo of words: love, of the individual, is that sudden revelation, that irremediable cataclysm, of which one speaks only after the fact. Under its sway, one does not speak of. ("In Praise of Love")

- it seems right and thankfully free of the usual embarrassment of sexism that marks most writing about love. Julia Kristeva evokes the wildness of love, the loss of self and the eruption of desire, without sounding idiotic. When Kristeva writes that in love one assumes the right to be extraordinary, it is a great description of being in love. Kristeva is right to describe love as the inrush of total subjectivity, an infinity of subjectivity. In Kristeva's psycho-poetic reading, love's the inrush of the totally extraordinary, but at the expense of commonsense (as lovers learn, painfully):

Love is the time and space in which "I" assumes the right to be extraordinary. Sovereign yet not individual. Divisible, lost, annihilated; but also, and through imaginary fusion with the loved one, equal to the infinite space of superhuman psychism. Paranoid? I am, in love, at the zenith of subjectivity.

How great this first chapter of Histoires d'amour is, as great as Stendhal's De l'Amour or Sigmund Freud's The Ego and the Id, or Jacques Lacan's Écrits. Kristeva describes love as a transgressive, sometimes violent wildness (D.H. Lawrence's term 'infinite sensual violence' is apposite here). 'Vertigo of identity, vertigo of words' - what a good turn of phrase. Vertigo - the falling in love, the fear of falling, the helplessness, the swoon into the abyss. Going over the edge. Moving beyond the boundaries. Transgression.

Kelly Ives has written widely on feminism, philosophy and art.


JKPolity, 2011

"Keltner's book is highly original, insightful, and promises to change the way scholars have traditionally read Kristeva's work."
Kelly Oliver, Vanderbilt University
"The book represents an engaging and original interpretation of the entire spectrum of Kristeva's work, including her often overlooked fiction. There are real gems in this manuscript, in particular a terrific and highly original interpretation of Kristeva's theory of intimacy, Oedipus, temporality, as well as of the phenomenological and ontological dimensions of her work, often disregarded by her interpreters. In short, Kristeva is a remarkable intellectual achievement."
Ewa Ziarek, University at Buffalo

"Keltner deftly demonstrates how Kristeva extends phenomenological insights in radically new directions. Her fresh, probing analysis decisively tackles the social and historical significance of Kristeva's Freudian and aesthetic standpoint. A tour de force of Kristeva's highly faceted portrait of Oedipus supports Keltner's excellent and timely elucidation of 'intimate revolt.'"
Sara Beardsworth, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, author of Julia Kristeva: Psychoanalysis and Modernity

Julia Kristeva is one of the most creative and prolific writers to address the personal, social, and political trials of our times. Linguist, psychoanalyst, social and cultural theorist, and novelist, Kristeva's broad interdisciplinary appeal has impacted areas across the humanities and social sciences.
S. K. Keltner's book provides the first comprehensive introduction to the breadth of Kristeva's work. In an original and insightful analysis, Keltner presents Kristeva's thought as the coherent development and elaboration of a complex, multidimensional threshold constitutive of meaning and subjectivity. The 'threshold' indicates Kristeva's primary sphere of concern, the relationship between the speaking being and its particular social and historical conditions; and Kristeva's interdisciplinary approach. Kristeva's vision, Keltner argues, opens a unique perspective within contemporary discourses attentive to issues of meaning, subjectivity, and social and political life. By emphasizing Kristeva's attention to the permeable borders of psychic and social life, Keltner offers innovative readings of the concepts most widely discussed in Kristeva scholarship: the semiotic and symbolic, abjection, love, and loss. She also provides new interpretations of some of the most controversial issues surrounding Kristeva's work, including Kristeva's conceptions of intimacy, social and cultural difference, and Oedipal subjectivity, by contextualizing them within her methodological approach and oeuvre as a whole.

Julia Kristeva: Thresholds is an engaging and accessible introduction to Kristeva's theoretical and fictional works that will be of interest to both students and scholars across the humanities and social sciences.


JKSuny Press, 2004

HONORABLE MENTION – 2006 Goethe Award for Psychoanalytic Scholarship for the best book published in 2004, presented by the Section on Psychoanalysis of the Canadian Psychological Association.

A comprehensive examination of Kristeva's work from the seventies to the nineties.

This is the first systematic overview of Julia Kristeva's vision and work in relation to philosophical modernity. It provides a clear, comprehensive, and interdisciplinary analysis of her thought on psychoanalysis, art, ethics, politics, and feminism in the secular aftermath of religion. Sara Beardsworth shows that Kristeva's multiple perspectives explore the powers and limits of different discourses as responses to the historical failures of Western cultures, failures that are undergone and disclosed in psychoanalysis.

"…one of the best books on a French figure to be published in recent years. Beardsworth brilliantly and provocatively deepens our understanding of the foundations of Kristeva's psychoanalytic position and situates her thought in the broader fields of modern and continental philosophy. It is a book that challenges not only our most basic assumptions about Kristeva, but also those concerning psychoanalysis itself." — Continental Philosophy Review

"I am pleased to say that this is one of the best books on Kristeva I've read. It develops an original reinterpretation of Kristeva's work and offers a new undertaking of the vexed relations between subjectivity and the social. This is a timely and important book that changes our understanding of Kristeva's work, its relation to feminism, psychoanalysis, and the broad culture of modernity." — Ewa Plonowska Ziarek, author of An Ethics of Dissensus: Postmodernity, Feminism, and the Politics of Radical Democracy and editor of Gombrowicz's Grimaces: Modernism, Gender, Nationality

"This is the best available study of Kristeva's thought. Beardsworth clearly and cleanly exposes the inner workings of the system of critical thought of this towering intellectual figure. This will become the primary text for understanding—one might even say for constructing—Kristeva's relationship to most of the diverse streams of contemporary feminism." — Gregg M. Horowitz, author of Sustaining Loss: Art and Mournful Life

"This is an original and utterly compelling philosophical reading of Kristeva. In the course of crystallizing the fundamental gestures of Kristeva's thought, Beardsworth has provided a riveting psychoanalytic redescription of the meaning of modernity." — J. M. Bernstein, author of Adorno: Disenchantment and Ethics

"Beardsworth's thesis—that Kristeva diagnoses a loss of loss as well as a need for a recovery of loss—is stunning and original. Her analysis of Kristeva's relationship to Lacan is lucid and insightful and her recuperation of Kristeva's notions of melancholy and abjection for feminist theory is exciting and productive." — Kelly Oliver, author of Reading Kristeva: Unraveling the Double-Bind

Sara Beardsworth is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Southern Illinois University.


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