Reading Julia Kristeva: Estrangement and the female intellectual
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)
This study is concerned with the interrelationship between estrangement and the place of the female intellectual in a selection of texts by Julia Kristeva. The alterity of language - which Kristeva takes to be language in its affective aspect – is read as a critique of notions of presence and transcendence that have governed our expectations about the meaning of identity and the nature of reading. When a material texture is restored to language it estranges thought and discourse. The subject-in-process announced by Kristeva is thus both the sign and symptom of estrangement, a subject that has been evacuated of any essential identity. At the same time it is established that there is a subtle privileging of the female (as intellectual) in Kristeva's work. This privileged site of enunciation often appears to be at variance with the former emphasis on estrangement. However the study discovers that later texts, in particular Tales of Love, reconcile these two ambivalent operations by posing the value of the Imaginary Father. When subjectivity is seen to be in loving relation to an imaginary other, estrangement and relations of hostility are transformed by a new understanding of what it means to be at home with the self and in love with the other. Through examining persistent shifts in Kristeva between spaces of dwelling and exile, I argue that the virtues of homelessness increasingly give place to reading subjects in need of care and renewal. Although the early fascination with the estranging qualities of language persists, I conclude that openness to the speech of the other is the most lasting quality in Kristeva's writing that recognises, without valorising, feminine specificity.