Kristeva’s theory is the notion of signifying practice in literature and psychoanalysis. She developed the theory of semiotics which places emphasis on the nature of poetic language and the structural notion of sign while also involving extra-linguistic factors of psychology, history and gender. She investigates the territories of subjectivity and multiplicity and has maintained the concept of heterogeneity and multiplicity extracted from linguistic and semiotic approaches (Barzilai, 1999).
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She expounds the concept of object in powers of horror. The center of Kristeva’s theory is the notion of signifying practice in literature and psychoanalysis. Kristeva developed the theory of semiotics which emphasizes on the nature of poetic language and the structural notion of the sign while also including the extra-linguistic factors of psychology, history and gender (Kristeva, 2004). She continued her investigation in the fields of subjectivity and multiplicity. This paper discusses Kristeva’s debt to Saussurean semiotics and Psychoanalysis in powers of horror.
Debt to Saussurean Semiotics in Powers of Horror
For Kristeva, language has transformative capacities. In order to explain the heterogeneous element of language, she moves away from the generative grammar of Chomsky. Chomsky’s view that surface structures are derived from deep structures seems to Kristeva to reduce the speaking subject to a series of trans-linguistic generalities that privilege systematic structures.
Although Kristeva rehabilitated Saussure’s semiology interest, she found Saussure’s implementation of it, that is; his search for truth, emphasis on logic and adoption of scientific procedures, just as inadequate to the subject of speaking. This made her to embrace an increasingly psychoanalytic approach (Kristeva, 2004).
Debt to Psychoanalysis in Powers of Horror
Consolidation of Kristeva’s theoretical interests with individual life linked her to increased professional and intellectual engagement with psychoanalysis theory. In the 1970s she trained as an analyst, commencing her own psychoanalytic practice in 1979 (Kristeva, 2004).
Her theoretical work has demonstrated close engagement with psychoanalysis theory since 1980. In addition, she uses art and literature extensively to explore psychoanalytic concepts and psychic processes. In powers of horror, she analyses the concept of objection and horror (Kristeva, 2004).
Kristeva was both a cultural and literal theorist. She was also a renowned linguist and a practicing psychoanalyst. Most significant, her work combined two projects that were usually disparate.
This included: the study of language as a science and sign systems started by Saussure Ferdinand; and developing the unconscious and human sexuality psychology initiated by Sigmund Freud (Barzilai, 1999). Her writings concentrate on psychoanalytic and semiotic overlaps. In Sigmund’s monograph of Aphasia, his interest in a psychical, as well as physiological explanation for articulate disturbances is evident (Barzilai, 1999).
For instance, Freud posits the relation between word presentation and object presentation while explaining the speech apparatus (Saussure, 1986). Later in his unconscious paper, the same terms move into different combinations: it retains word representation but object presentation changes to thing presentation. In the unconscious, object presentation depicts a complex that constitutes thing presentation and word presentation.
Kristeva termed this complex as Freud’s sign (Kristeva, 2004). The application of the term sign for what Freud refers to as the functional unit of speech and the complex concept underscores the similarity between Freud’s and Saussure’s linguistic formulations (Kristeva, 2004).
The application of term sign for what Sigmund refers “the functional unit of speech” and a complex concept, underscores similarity between Freud and Saussure linguistic formulations (Saussure, 1986).
In the second chapter of powers of horror, Kristeva notes these grounds. “Obviously privileged, the sound image of sound presentation and the visual image of object presentation became associated, calling the mind very precisely the matrix of the sign belonging to the philosophical tradition and to which Saussurean semiology gave new currency” (Kristeva, 2004).
Kristeva’s recalling, however, stresses certain elements in Freud’s definitional statements while repressing or neglecting others. In her opening exhortation, Kristeva applies the terms complexity and closure to work in a manner similar to heterogeneity and homogeneity (Barzilai, 1999). These sets of terms also suggest another distinction central to Kristeva’s work. Kristeva provides Le semiotique which differs from La semiotique, which is semiotics as a general, traditional science of signs (Saussure, 1986).
In sum, it should be emphasized that Kristeva neither slights nor denies the importance of Saussurian distinction for linguistics and for psychoanalysis. She expressly gives credit where it is due. She posits that, the Freudian sign is “always already indebted to that representation specific to language and therefore to the linguistic sign, one can say anything of semiotic heterogeneity without making it homologous with the linguistic signifier (Kristeva, 2004).
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Yet Kristeva also closely and frequently remarks the drawbacks, the assimilation of Freud’s sign to Saussure’s leaves, she views, what constitutes the originality of the Freudian semiology and guarantees its hold on the heterogeneous economy of the speaking being (Barzilai, 1999). Kristeva’s work closely focused on psychoanalysis theory. Powers of Horror presented the turning point on Kristeva’s focus on psychoanalysis theory (Kristeva, 2004).
Barzilai, S., 1999. Lacan and the Matter of Origin, Washington: Cambridge University Press.
Kristeva, Roudiez S., 2004. Power and Horror. Washington : Columbia University Press.
Saussure, F., 1986. Course in General Linguistics, New York: Open Court Publishing.