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Widawsky, R. (2014). Julia Kristeva's Psychoanalytic Work. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 62(1):61-67.

(2014). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 62(1):61-67

Julia Kristeva's Psychoanalytic Work

Rachel Widawsky

Julia Kristeva is, after Simone de Beauvoir, arguably the most prominent French female intellectual of the twentieth century. As such, in 2004 she was the first recipient of the Holberg Prize, the humanities equivalent of the Nobel Prize. Kristeva presents herself as a European citizen of French nationality, Bulgarian by birth and American by adoption, having taught at U.S. universities since the mid-seventies.

Her cosmopolitan self-identification mirrors the history of postwar Europe. She moved to Paris from Bulgaria at the age of eighteen with a background in Russian literature and German philosophy. Over the course of her career she developed a unique and profound way of thinking by connecting linguistics, literature, philosophy, and psychoanalysis. In each of these fields, she has questioned established assumptions while grounding contemporary theories within the broader context of the Western cultural heritage. As the eminent French literary critic Roland Barthes wrote of her in 1970, “she changes the order of things” by always linking new theories or approaches to tradition (quoted in Moi 1986, p. 1).

However, her interdisciplinary thinking is no mere eclectism but an extensive exploration of the human mind that requires us to travel among disciplines and beyond frontiers. In her acceptance speech for the Holberg Prize (Kristeva 2004) she said, “the key to my nomadism, and my questioning of established forms of knowledge, is none other than psychoanalysis itself, understood as a journey in which the psychic identity itself is reconstituted.”

If the first thread of her trajectory is, as Kristeva says, a journey among disciplines, it is led by an insatiable search for an empathic understanding of the human psyche and a relentless concern to safeguard a place for the subject in the human sciences.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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