Julia Kristeva (krihs-TEH-vah) is perhaps most accurately and conventionally described as a semiotician, that is, a student of signs and their meaning. However, in the course of a career that has repeatedly defied conventions, she has become one of the most diverse, controversial, and consistently innovative theorists engaged in the postmodern reconsideration of the origin, nature, and destiny of the human self. With a skillful and highly original blend of disciplines and methodologies, ranging from linguistics and psychoanalysis to Marxism, feminism, and literary criticism, Kristeva has produced works that trace the various interactions between language and the human psyche and explore the ways these interactions create and maintain the political, cultural, and religious structures of society.
Kristeva was born in 1941 into a middle-class Bulgarian family. She originally aspired to a scientific career, but because her parents lacked the political influence necessary for advanced technical study in the Soviet Union, she attended the Literary Institute of Sofia. She graduated in 1966 with a degree in linguistics and won a fellowship for doctoral study in Paris, where she worked with the famous linguist Emile Benveniste and the structuralist writer Roland Barthes. The literary critic Tzvetan Todorov, a fellow Bulgarian who had already established himself in the French capital, introduced her to the group of writers and intellectuals associated with the radical French journal Tel Quel. Among them was Philippe Sollers, the avant-garde novelist, who later became her husband. Encouraged by Todorov and Sollers, Kristeva began writing essays for Tel Quel. In 1973 she received her doctorat d’état and subsequently accepted a professorship in linguistics at the University of Paris.
In 1974 her dissertation...
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