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Mitchell, J. (1991). Black Sun: By Julia Kristeva. Translated by Leon S. Roudiez. New York: Columbia University Press. 1989. Pp. 300 + vii.. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 18:557-559.

(1991). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 18:557-559

Black Sun: By Julia Kristeva. Translated by Leon S. Roudiez. New York: Columbia University Press. 1989. Pp. 300 + vii.

Review by:
Juliet Mitchell

To summarize Julia Kristeva's argument in Black Sun is to travesty it. In essence it is simple, even familiar; her deployment of it is not. Indeed it is extraordinarily rich. But the travesty is not only in the necessary reduction but also in any linear presentation. As with the construction of the psyche, Kristeva's narrative does not proceed along tracks but enfolds itself in new but repetitive patterns towards the same thematic figure in the carpet.

Here the theme is the place and, in a sense, the personality of melancholia; the attributes and raison d'être of what I shall call 'primal' depression. For Kristeva, melancholia is to be located in the prospect of severance.

To start with, and of course as a possibility all the time, there is for homo sapiens no distinction between subject and object. In reality, however, there is the baby (or oneself) and the world out there. This world Lacan called 'the real' and Kristeva, following Heidegger, the 'Thing'. The 'Thing' as a designation—unlike the 'real'—indicates proleptically that it is not but will become an object. Looked back at it is a pre-object. We are in the borderland territory between the biological and the psychological, the terrain of Freud's theory of instincts.

Melancholia or primal depression is the response to the pre-perception of the severance that will have to take place from the Thing for the subject and object to come into being. It is the symptom which bears witness to the split in the ego which constitutes the ego and the other.

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