Head Cases

Head Cases: Julia Kristeva on Philosophy and Art in Depressed Times

ELAINE P. MILLER
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/mill16682
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    Head Cases
    Book Description:

    While philosophy and psychoanalysis privilege language and conceptual distinctions and mistrust the image, the philosopher and psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva recognizes the power of art and the imagination to unblock important sources of meaning. She also appreciates the process through which creative acts counteract and transform feelings of violence and depression.

    Reviewing Kristeva's corpus, Elaine P. Miller considers the intellectual's "aesthetic idea" and "thought specular" in their capacity to reshape depressive thought on both the individual and cultural level. She revisits Kristeva's reading of Walter Benjamin with reference to melancholic art and the imagination's allegorical structure; her analysis of Byzantine iconoclasm in relation to Freud's psychoanalytic theory of negation and Hegel's dialectical negativity; her understanding of Proust as an exemplary practitioner of sublimation; her rereading of Kant and Arendt in terms of art as an intentional lingering with foreignness; and her argument that forgiveness is both a philosophical and psychoanalytic method of transcending a "stuck" existence. Focusing on specific artworks that illustrate Kristeva's ideas, from ancient Greek tragedy to early photography, contemporary installation art, and film, Miller positions creative acts as a form of "spiritual inoculation" against the violence of our society and its discouragement of thought and reflection.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53711-7
    Subjects: Philosophy, Language & Literature, Psychology, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VIII)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. IX-X)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. XI-XVI)
  4. INTRODUCTION: LOSING OUR HEADS
    (pp. 1-20)

    AT SLEEPOVERS OR AROUND CAMPFIRES CHILDREN LIKE TO tell each other spooky stories, including the story of the woman who always wore a red (or green or black) ribbon around her neck. In this story the woman refuses to comply with the repeated requests of her persistent lover—which continue over the course of their life together—to tell him why she will never take the ribbon off, day or night. This situation lasts until the very moment of the woman’s imminent death, when she tells her lover that he may, at last, remove the ribbon. When he does, the...

  5. 1 KRISTEVA AND BENJAMIN: MELANCHOLY AND THE ALLEGORICAL IMAGINATION
    (pp. 21-52)

    KRISTEVA ARGUES, PERHAPS UNCONTROVERSIALLY, THAT melancholia is a malady that affects individuals in modernity to a greater extent and in a different and more debilitating way than at any other point in history. Whereas in the past melancholia was associated with the solitary philosophical temperament and with artistic creativity, that is, with the exception rather than the norm, today melancholia or depression is a widespread mental and physical affliction that manifests itself in its most acute form as an inability to act or speak or even to feel. In the opening paragraph ofBlack Sun, Kristeva refers to melancholia as...

  6. 2 KENOTIC ART: NEGATIVITY, ICONOCLASM, INSCRIPTION
    (pp. 53-86)

    TOWARD THE END OFSTRANGERS TO OURSELVES, KRISTEVA extends Hegel’s historical dialectic to include the emergence of Freudian psychoanalysis, even tracing Freud’s discovery of the unconscious to the preparatory historical stage described in Hegel’s account of the restless and productive tarrying of Spirit with its negative Other.¹ Drawing a line from Kant to Herder to Hegel to Freud, Kristeva then traces her own thought of negativity as the driving dynamic of human psychic development through its inception in German idealist philosophy and Freudian psychoanalysis.²

    This extension of the historical dialectic past Hegel and past the unity of substance and subject...

  7. 3 TO BE AND REMAIN FOREIGN: TARRYING WITH L’INQUIÉTANTE Étrangeté ALONGSIDE ARENDT AND KAFKA
    (pp. 87-120)

    THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FOREIGNERS AND THE SOCIETY or country to which they have immigrated, the subject of Kristeva’sStrangers to Ourselves, is a topic that troubles peoples and nations worldwide but perhaps is nowhere so salient a political concern today as in France and in the United States. Kristeva’s ultimate conclusion in this book is that the foreign is not a problem that can ever be overcome; this is because, just as foreigners will always be a “worrisome” presence in every nation-state, so, too, there is a “foreigner”—namely, the unconscious—within each of us considered as an independent unity...

  8. 4 SUBLIMATING MAMAN: EXPERIENCE, TIME, AND THE RE-EROTIZATION OF EXISTENCE IN KRISTEVA’S READING OF MARCEL PROUST
    (pp. 121-152)

    IN THIS CHAPTER I WILL CONSIDER AT GREATER LENGTH Kristeva’s reading of Marcel Proust, relating it to the idea of sublimation as re-erotization. Commentary on Proust’s texts pervades Kristeva’s writing, and she has devoted an entire book,Time and Sense, to a reading of Proust specifically and to the phenomenology of the experience of literature generally. It might initially seem counterintuitive that Kristeva considers Proust exemplary of the kind of literary writing she most admires. In her earliest writings Kristeva was primarily engaged with avant-garde literature. Even when she considers more traditional writers such as Dostoevsky, it is generally for...

  9. 5 THE “ORESTES COMPLEX”: THINKING HATRED, FORGIVENESS, GREEK TRAGEDY, AND THE CINEMA OF THE “THOUGHT SPECULAR” WITH HEGEL, FREUD,AND KLEIN
    (pp. 153-182)

    KRISTEVA’S DISCUSSIONS OF FORGIVENESS INBLACK SUNANDTime and Senserevolve around the imaginary constructions of literature, specifically in Dostoevsky, who makes forgiveness an explicit theme ofThe Idiot,Crime and Punishment,The Devils, andThe Brothers Karamazov, and in Proust, whose very writing style performs the “forgiveness” of transubstantiation, turning sorrows into words. In later works, however, she focuses instead on the ambivalent presence of hatred within the structure of forgiveness or “par-don.” In this chapter I will examine this new conception of forgiveness with reference to Kristeva’s readings of Hegel, Freud, and Klein. In her most recent...

  10. CONCLUSION: FORGING A HEAD
    (pp. 183-190)

    A YOUNG WOMAN GOES TO THE STUDENT HEALTH CENTER FOR counseling. She has lost a close childhood friend, killed in an accident. She seeks a safe place to narrate her loss and someone to receive it with quiet and patience, someone who will not be waiting to pass on to the next subject of conversation, as even a close friend might, but who can linger with her in her pain. She seeks a place to talk of her friend who has died and perhaps to lament his passing in anger, expressing the injustice of a life cut short in its...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 191-224)
  12. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 225-232)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 233-246)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 247-248)