Julia Kristeva Criticism - Essay

Nancy Fraser (essay date February 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Uses and Abuses of French Discourse Theories for Feminist Politics,” in Theory, Culture, and Society, Vol. 9, No. 1, February, 1992, pp. 51-71.

[In the following essay, Fraser argues that the works of Kristeva, as well as those of Jacques Lacan, should not be relied upon or referred to for feminist purposes.]

This essay grows out of an experience of severe puzzlement. For several years now I have been watching with growing incomprehension as increasing numbers of feminist scholars have been trying to use or adapt the theory of Jacques Lacan for feminist purposes. I myself have felt a deep disaffinity with Lacan, a disaffinity as much intellectual as...

(The entire section is 8036 words.)

Pam Morris (essay date Spring 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Re-routing Kristeva: From Pessimism to Parody,” in Textual Practice, Vol. 6, No. 1, Spring, 1992, pp. 31-46.

[In the following essay, Morris argues that Kristeva's ideas offer the “best direction for an optimistic Marxist-feminist practice and theory.”]

Theory has lost some of the glamour of success. All the radical intellectual iconoclasm of the last two decades seems finally to have come down to an unproductive choice of Althusserian and Lacanian hegemonic essentialism, or the endless play of indeterminacies celebrated by deconstructionists, or the irresistible and omnipresent power of discourse theory. For Marxists and feminists with an imperative...

(The entire section is 7293 words.)

Ewa Ziarek (essay date Spring 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “At the Limits of Discourse: Hetergeneity, Alterity, and the Maternal Body in Kristeva's Thought,” in Hypatia, Vol. 7, No. 2, Spring, 1992, pp. 91-108.

[In the following essay, Ziarek “situates Kristeva's theory of semiotics in the context of the controversial debate about the status of the maternal body in her work,” and associates her linguistic theory with “the alerity of the maternal body.”]


The intense debate around Kristeva's work among many feminist theorists indicates that her thought generates questions of central importance to any feminist project devoted to revision of culture and discourse. One of the most...

(The entire section is 8361 words.)

Anny Brooksbank Jones (essay date Spring 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Julia Kristeva and Her Old Man: Between Optimism and Despair,” in Textual Practice, Spring, 1993 pp. 1-12.

[In the following essay, Jones considers critical reception of Kristeva's The Old Man and the Wolves within the context of two interviews following its publication.]

In October 1991 Julia Kristeva's Le Vieil Homme et les loups appeared, to a mixed reception.1 This paper considers the novel's reception in the light of two recent interviews with Kristeva, in order to say something about her view of the role of the writer in times of trouble.

In his ‘review of reviews’ for Le Nouvel Observateur...

(The entire section is 5436 words.)

Mary Caputi (essay date Fall 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Abject Maternal: Kristeva's Theoretical Consistency” in Women and Language, Vol. XVI, No. 2, Fall, 1993, pp. 32-7.

[In the following essay, Caputi examines Kristeva's writings on motherhood.]

Many feminists have become disenchanted with Julia Kristeva. They argue that she is too psychoanalytic, too postmodern, too given to rarified forms of discourse to contribute meaningfully to feminist scholarship. Her angrier critics dismiss her as an intellectual comfortably ensconced within elitist Parisian circles, circles which produce their own revered avant garde, tout favored authors and newfangled forms of analysis, yet appear oblivious and inaccessible to...

(The entire section is 4530 words.)

Judith Butler (essay date 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Body Politics of Julia Kristeva,” in Ethics, Politics, and Difference in Julia Kristeva's Writing, edited by Kelly Oliver, Routledge: New York, 1993, pp. 164-78.

[In the following essay, Butler argues that Kristeva's strategy of “subversion” proves doubtful, as Kristeva “concedes that the semiotic is invariably subordinate to the symbolic.”]

Kristeva's theory of the semiotic dimension of language at first appears to engage Lacanian premises only to expose their limits and to offer a specifically feminine locus of subversion of the paternal law within language. According to Lacan, the paternal law structures all linguistic signification, termed...

(The entire section is 6313 words.)

Glenn W. Erickson (essay date Spring 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “On Kristeva” in South Carolina Review, Vol. 28, Spring, 1996, pp. 160-64.

[In the following essay, Erickson criticizes Kristeva, claiming that in her hands, structuralism is merely a “pseudo-science.”]

Born in Bulgaria in 1941, Julia Kristeva arrived in Paris in 1965 to study linguistics. She quickly became a fixture in the cutting edge journal Tel Quel, marrying the editor, novelist Phillipe Sollers. She was appointed Professor of Linguistics (the academic department is named “Science of Texts and Documents”) at the Universite de Paris VII and a practicing psychoanalyst. Kristeva was actively consulted during these translations.


(The entire section is 2470 words.)

Dawne McCance (essay date Spring 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “L'écriture limite: Kristeva's Postmodern Feminist Ethics,” in Hypatia, Vol. 11, No. 2, Spring, 1996, pp. 141-60.

[In the following essay, McCance tracks the changes in Kristeva's approach to “the subject in process/on trial,” addressing the theoretical and practical development in her work from the 1960s through the 1980s.]

The theoretical work that interests me involves the analysis of the work of language, not as something possessing an arbitrary but systematizable nature (the aim of positivist semiology) but rather as a verbal practice whose economy is complex, critical and contradictory (poetic language offers the...

(The entire section is 9422 words.)

Peter Brooks (review date 19 May 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Proust on the Couch,” in New York Times Book Review, May 19, 1996, p. 39.

[In the following review, Brooks offers a positive assessment of Kristeva's Time & Sense.]

Proust continues to be the Mount Everest that French critics want to conquer. He is there—more than ever. This sometime esthete and dandy, whose work was originally rejected by avant-garde publishers because it appeared to be a monument to a dead social order, has in the three-quarters of a century since his death become the very definition of the modern in art. We're never satisfied that we have understood Proust fully; his work is troubling, open to new interpretation, subject to change...

(The entire section is 949 words.)

Juliana de Nooy (essay date 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “From Revolution to Revolt: Kristevan Contestation for the Nineties,” in Southern Review, Vol. 30, No. 2, 1997, pp. 146-58.

[In the following essay, de Nooy examines the extent to which Kristeva's philosophical position has shifted since the 1970s, as well as her “elaboration of a feminine Oedipal experience.”]

The anecdote goes that when the news arrived at Versailles of the fall of the Bastille, Louis XVI asked, “Is it a revolt?” to which La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt replied, “No, Sire, it's a revolution.” Kristeva's latest theoretical book, Sens et non-sens de la révolte, seems to come to the opposite conclusion: no, not a revolution...

(The entire section is 6148 words.)

Mark Edmundson (review date 5 April 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Headless Body in Lawless Burg,” in New York Times Book Review, April 5, 1998, p. 35.

[In the following review, Edmundson offers a mixed assessment of Possessions.]

[In Possessions,] Gloria Harrison has lost her head. Someone has cut it clean away—an elegant surgical job—and absconded with it to points unknown. It happened in a mansion, not long after a dinner party attended by a group of charismatic but rather sinister guests. There is a newspaper editor (and “inveterate womanizer”); a slightly shady, worldly-wise businessman and his wife; a psychiatrist with opinions on all and sundry; a suspiciously reserved speech pathologist...

(The entire section is 738 words.)

Kevin Brophy (essay date Autumn 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Kristeva, Literature and Motherhood Statements,” in Southerly, Vol. 58, No. 1, Autumn, 1998, pp. 34-40.

[In the following essay, Brophy explores two of Kristeva's essays, “The Adolescent Novel” and “Women's Time,” in an effort to examine Kristeva's “two forms of creativity” and how they relate to motherhood.]

I take up two moments—two essays—where the French-Bulgarian psychoanalyst and linguist Julia Kristeva attempts ways of understanding literature as a creative act.1 These moments are of interest because while they claim for psychoanalysis certain new, more flexible and more ideologically self-conscious ways of understanding...

(The entire section is 2503 words.)