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The Sense and Non-Sense of Revolt

The Sense and Non-Sense of Revolt: The Powers and Limits of Psychoanalysis

Julia Kristeva
Translated by Jeanine Hennan
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    The Sense and Non-Sense of Revolt
    Book Description:

    Linguist, psychoanalyst, and cultural theorist, Julia Kristeva is one of the most influential and prolific thinkers of our time. Her writings have broken new ground in the study of the self, the mind, and the ways in which we communicate through language. Her work is unique in that it skillfully brings together psychoanalytic theory and clinical practice, literature, linguistics, and philosophy.

    In her latest book on the powers and limits of psychoanalysis, Kristeva focuses on an intriguing new dilemma. Freud and psychoanalysis taught us that rebellion is what guarantees our independence and our creative abilities. But in our contemporary "entertainment" culture, is rebellion still a viable option? Is it still possible to build and embrace a counterculture? For whom -- and against what -- and under what forms?

    Kristeva illustrates the advances and impasses of rebel culture through the experiences of three twentieth-century writers: the existentialist John Paul Sartre, the surrealist Louis Aragon, and the theorist Roland Barthes. For Kristeva the rebellions championed by these figures -- especially the political and seemingly dogmatic political commitments of Aragon and Sartre -- strike the post-Cold War reader with a mixture of fascination and rejection. These theorists, according to Kristeva, are involved in a revolution against accepted notions of identity -- of one's relation to others. Kristeva places their accomplishments in the context of other revolutionary movements in art, literature, and politics. The book also offers an illuminating discussion of Freud's groundbreaking work on rebellion, focusing on the symbolic function of patricide in his Totem and Taboo and discussing his often neglected vision of language, and underscoring its complex connection to the revolutionary drive.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51843-7
    Subjects: Psychology, Philosophy, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. 1 What Revolt Today?
    (pp. 1-19)

    The title of this book is meant to evoke the current political state and the lack of revolt that characterizes it. I promise not to elude this aspect of the problem, but I will approach things from a bit of a distance: from the roots of memory, which is nothing other than language and the unconscious. There are two facets to the reflections presented here: the first concerns psychoanalysis, its history, and its present state; the second takes into consideration different literary texts.

    I will explain first what I mean by “revolt” and why the problematic of the sense and...

  5. 2 The Sacred and Revolt: Various Logics
    (pp. 20-31)

    In the previous chapter, I discussed an aspect of the organization of sacred space as Freud defined it in Totem and Taboo (1912–1913), recalling how the sons’ murder of the father was repeated during the religious ritual in the form of sacrifice. If you read or reread Freud’s text, you will see that he links the question of the sacred to the double taboo affecting the prehistoric community: on the one hand, the murder of the father; on the other, relations with the mother. Freud thus considers the two points of the oedipal triangle, the two constitutive elements of...

  6. 3 The Metamorphoses of “Language” in the Freudian Discovery (Freudian Models of Language)
    (pp. 32-64)

    The first of the three Freudian models of language can be found in On Aphasia (1891) and in “Project for a Scientific Psychology” (1895).¹ The second, a more directly psychoanalytical model, is essentially outlined in The Interpretation of Dreams (1900).²

    The first model originates in an observation that brings us back to the notions of prohibition and transgression and the dualism Freud repeatedly addresses under different names. Freud noted an inadequacy, an imbalance, between the sexual and the verbal. What the speaking being says does not subsume sexuality. Sexuality cannot be spoken or, in any case, cannot be entirely spoken....

  7. 4 Oedipus Again; or, Phallic Monism
    (pp. 65-93)

    The Conscious/Unconscious versus Knowledge

    Before going on to Oedipus, I will conclude my remarks on the three models of language in Freud by responding to a question concerning the link that may be established in the solitude of analytical treatment.

    A great analyst, Michel de M’Uzan, asked in his seminar one day: what is the analyst’s organ? The brain? The unconscious? The erogenous zones? Analysts no doubt use all these as well as personality, history, rhetoric, culture, and politics. Consequently, we also use our capacity for revolt as I am trying to define it here. Solitude then becomes an open...

  8. 5 On the Extraneousness of the Phallus; or, the Feminine Between Illusion and Disillusion
    (pp. 94-106)

    From the perspective of psychoanalysis as a theory of sexuality and thought, I will now deal with the question of female sexuality, or rather bisexuality, and in particular the girl’s relationship to the Oedipus, the law, and the phallus. This is of interest, of course, insofar as the question of revolt is also situated in relation to the law. To comment on Freud’s statement in Female Sexuality that “bisexuality . . . comes to the fore much more clearly in women than in men,”¹ which I would like to highlight in this chapter, I will refer to several of Freud’s...

  9. 6 Aragon, Defiance, and Deception: A Precursor?
    (pp. 107-148)

    The name Louis Aragon is linked to two movements that shook the century: surrealism and Stalinism. I will discuss Stalinism in passing, but Aragon’s so-called surrealist period will draw the most of my attention.

    You may think you know everything about surrealism: provocation, scandal, rejection of bourgeois conformism, automatic writing, adulated and repressed women, tender passions between men, painting devoted to dreams and shopkeepers: we’re all familiar with the leaders, “popes,” gurus, schisms, excommunications, epigoni, international dissemination, political-esoteric-sexometaphysical contamination, and so on. The legend has been made; it is impressive, and it sells. And yet, what if there were something...

  10. 7 Sartre; or, “We Are Right to Revolt”
    (pp. 149-186)

    Around 458 B.C.—about forty years before Sophocles’ Oedipus the King (420 B.C.)—Aeschylus wrote his Oresteia.¹ In 1943 a modern rebel, Jean-Paul Sartre, would refashion it as The Flies: “I’m free as air, thank God! My mind’s my own, gloriously aloof. . . . I shall not come back to Nature, . . . in it are a thousand beaten paths all leading up to you—but I must blaze my trail. For I, Zeus, am a man, and every man must find out his own way. Nature abhors man, and you too, god of gods, abhor mankind.”² The...

  11. 8 Roland Barthes and Writing as Dernystification
    (pp. 187-216)

    Although self-hatred continues to be a very French speciality—could it be the bitter fallout of Cartesian doubt?—and continues to devalue refractory works, and although in this climate Barthes’s writings undergo attack and denigration, I will try to demonstrate to you that he is not a nihilist who might have contributed, along with other so-called structuralists or theorists, to killing the French novel (no less!). Not a nihilist but a sober tragic figure, because, starting in the early fifties, he would devote his reflection to the misadventures of meamng.

    The bankruptcy of ideology and the misery of philosophy had...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 217-232)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 233-244)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 245-246)