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Kristeva in Focus

Kristeva in Focus: From Theory to Film Analysis

Katherine J. Goodnow
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Kristeva in Focus
    Book Description:

    Dealing with some of the major themes in film narratives, this book draws on the theories of French psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva. It looks at how narratives have changed over time, and considers the sources of our variable reactions to themes and representations of horror, strangers, and love.

    In addition to a selection of contemporary mainstream films, the major films for analysis are New Zealand "New Wave" films such as Alison Maclean'sKitchen SinkandCrush; Vincent Ward'sVigil; and Jane Campion'sSweety, An Angel at My Table, andThe Piano.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-794-5
    Subjects: Film Studies, Sociology, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface Kristeva in focus From theory to film analysis
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  5. Chapter 1 Introduction to Kristeva
    (pp. 1-27)

    Kristeva, like most postmodernists, does not present herself as offering a grand metatheory:

    Considering the complexity of the signifying process, no belief in an all-powerful theory is tenable; there remains the necessity to pay attention to the desire for language, and by this I mean paying attention ... to the art and literature of our time, which remains alone, in our world of technological rationality, to impel us not toward the absolute but toward a quest for a little more truth ... concerning the meaning of speech, concerning our condition as speaking beings.¹

    That lack of a grand theory –...

  6. Chapter 2 Horror – Basic concepts: The abject and its varieties
    (pp. 28-45)

    In essence, Kristeva offers a two-part argument. The first is that horror resides in threats to the boundaries that ordinarily regulate the social order: boundaries, for instance, between the living and the dead, human and animal, human and alien, male and female. The experience of these threats is the heart of our encounters with ‘the abject’: with that which ‘disturbs identity, system, order ... does not respect borders, positions, rules’.¹

    The second part of the argument is that all threats to boundaries cannot result in an equal sense of horror. That leads to the proposal that there are varieties of...

  7. Chapter 3 Horror – Specifying the circumstances
    (pp. 46-62)

    When do particular images evoke horror? What are the specific circumstances under which an image evokes a strong or weak sense of horror or is accepted with relative calm? All occasions on which boundaries are shaken – all violations of an expected order – do not evoke horror. What then needs to be added in order to pin down the bases to a sense of horror and its varying degrees? Why, to refer again to our major test case, isKitchen Sinkso particularly revolting, and at the same time so acclaimed?

    To begin answering that question, I turned in...

  8. Chapter 4 Strangers – Basic concepts: Strangers without and within
    (pp. 63-95)

    I shall start the next pair of chapters with a comment about film narratives rather than with a comment that is explicitly about Kristeva’s concepts. Many a film narrative is built around encounters between strangers and those already ‘in place’. In most of these narratives, ‘the stranger comes to town’. The form of the stranger may vary: a new sheriff, a tourist, an immigrant, or an alien strain. The basic narrative, however – the narrative that the spectator expects – is one in which the stranger prompts a variety of emotions among the locals and sets in motion a series...

  9. Chapter 5 Strangers – Expansions: The stranger’s story
    (pp. 96-114)

    The major part of Kristeva’s analysis of strangers deals with the impact of the stranger upon the local. What needs most to be explained is the local’s mixture of interest and unease, of attraction and hatred. What needs to be documented is the variety of ways in which competing codes – universalism and particularism especially – change in their relative strengths and give rise to various political solutions and various degrees of acceptance from one time to another. What needs to be understood – again by the local – is that the response to strangers has a long story to...

  10. Chapter 6 Love – Basic concepts
    (pp. 115-140)

    In the next two chapters, I shall take up Kristeva’s proposals with regard to love. I shall be particularly concerned with proposals that refer to sexual love and maternal love, although Kristeva’s discussion – and some of the material I shall abstract from it – extends also to religious love and friendship.

    Love is a topic that appears in many parts of Kristeva’s writing, including her novelThe Samurai. Its lack is part ofThe New Maladies of the Soul. Its presence is part of her analysis of Colette (Colette) and of Barthes. (Intimate Revolt). Two books, however, stand out....

  11. Chapter 7 Love – Expansions: Old and new discourses
    (pp. 141-158)

    The expansions in this chapter stem from three questions. What form would a new tale of love take? To what extent doSweetieandThe Pianoexemplify new discourses? What other forms might a new tale of love take? Turning to these expansions parallels the turn taken in the second of each of the earlier pairs of chapters – one on horror and one on strangers: a turn towards expansions that film analysts would especially wish to add to Kristeva’s basic concepts. Since the expansions in this chapter build upon those noted in the earlier expansion chapters, let me first...

  12. Chapter 8 The text of society and history
    (pp. 159-183)

    Each of the chapters so far has been devoted to Kristeva’s baseline concepts and their application to three particular topics: horror, strangers, and love. The next two chapters cut across the three topics. The present chapter does so by concentrating on the text of society and history. That text may be written large, or written small. Written large, it has a broad sweep and can cover large historical periods. This is Kristeva’s forte. She documents frequently the storehouse of representations that history contains, drawn upon to read any new text or to create something new.

    This way of regarding the...

  13. Chapter 9 Women and social change
    (pp. 184-208)

    As a way of bringing out the value of understanding and extending Kristeva’s concepts, I have turned to analyses of horror, strangers, and love. Noted also have been gaps that, if filled, would make her concepts even more valuable.

    The gap of particular concern in the previous chapter had to do with aspects of the text of society and history that are close to the production of any work. Kristeva gives primary attention to the storehouse of narratives and images that the past provides. Less well brought out – almost set aside after their recognition as important – are the...

  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 209-215)
    (pp. 216-218)
  16. Index
    (pp. 219-224)