Talk:Julia Kristeva

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"Escaping Stalinist Bulgarian communism?"[edit]

I'm quite curious (and a bit skeptical) regarding the current version's <<Kristeva moved to France in December 1965, when she was 24, escaping Stalinist Bulgarian communism.>> This sounds demagogic to me, and can mean everything and nothing — even to those of us who hesitate to take Kristeva's notion on board that communication takes place in the cleavage between words and meanings (and Stalin died in 1953). Are we to infer that Bulgaria was extravagantly oppressive to everyone of its citizens in 1965, and that she "escaped" with her life at risk? Or are we only to think that Kristeva of course could not breathe semiotically properly in ugly Bulgaria? I'd suggest either removing the "escaping communism" part (simply stating that she moved from Bulgaria to France) or explaining somehow why such strong words appear to be needed. Slavatrudu 22:23, 2 November 2006 (UTC)

Even "worse" than just escaping Stalinist Bulgaria: I am Bulgarian so I checked out the Bulgarian entry on Kristeva and it claims that "in 1966 she moved to Paris thanks to a stipend from the French government". Such stipends at that time were available only for kids of communist leaders. So much about her being oppressed by the regime. Brooklyn358

This is not a forum Brooklyn358. Discuss the article not teh subject. Also do not add unsourced and/or speculative information about living people any where on wikipedia - see WP:BLP--Cailil talk 20:26, 8 March 2009 (UTC)
Interesting nonetheless.Retal (talk) 21:31, 22 May 2018 (UTC)

About her Work[edit]

The "about her work" section is ungrammatical and borderline nonsensical. I don't know how to fix it, so maybe we should delete?

Kristeva did not win the Havel prize. (There are three Havel prizes, and she did not win any of them.) She was awarded the Vize 97 Prize ( by the Havel estate. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:32, 3 April 2018 (UTC)


The substance of this article (ie the Life and Work section) seems to have been lifted straight from a piece by Helene Volat, available at this page: ; unless the page copies what was written here. It's hosted at a State University of New York at Stony Brook site; I would much appreciate a clarification from the editor of the article who added the contents or anyone with an answer. -- Simonides 22:20, 11 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Please reply to this query before reverting the article. -- Simonides 17:33, 12 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Fashionable nonsense - proposal to discuss criticism[edit]

Kristeva is one of the simpletons described in the famous book Fashionable Nonsense by Sokal and Bricmont, and for this article to be objective, I think that it is absolutely necessary to discuss criticisms of this "thinker". --Lumidek 12:30, 23 Nov 2004 (UTC)

I agree that all criticism of Kristeva may and should be discussed and included, but they should be criticisms specific to Kristeva, and not just postmodernism in general (criticisms of postmodernism in general should be in the postmodernism article). I haven't read Sokal and Bricmont's work, but if they specifically criticize Kristeva, then by all means include that criticism, although I and others might write a rebuttal. COGDEN 19:26, Nov 23, 2004 (UTC)
I also agree that Socal and Bricmont's criticisms of Kristeva should be included. But I am unable to resist responding to Lumidek, though it may be childish of me. If I had not gone to Lumidek's user page, I would have assumed the comment came from a malicious troll trying to start a flame war. The thinkers Sokal and Bricmont criticize may well have committed serious errors outside their field, but calling them "simpletons" shows a contemptuous disregard for the widely respected work that some of them have done in their fields -- fields that Lumidek, being a physicist, is probably quite ignorant of. It is precisely such balkanization of knowledge that researchers like Bruno Latour must struggle against to do their work -- and that scornful attitudes like Lumidek's render difficult, if not impossible, to overcome. Solemnavalanche 22:26, 12 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Fashionable Nonsense is important in its own right, and it's good that there's an article devoted to it... But it's not really an important work in the discourse on Kristeva and, as a result, has no place here.

Fashionable Nonsense is not a scholarly work and has no place in an encyclopedic article.

Would you explain a bit more your point ? gbog 13:11, 2005 Mar 5 (UTC)
Of course. FN is a book by physicists criticizing philisophers, linguists, and psychologists (and one meta-scientificific scholar whose inclusion is unusual; see below.) It has no more credibility in those fields than if any of those authors published in the field of physics. In addition, it is demonstrable that the authors of FN have an agenda intended to discredit the authors they excerpt that questions their credibility to examine the work that they do.
In further addition, I am in the process of reading FN, rather than relying on various synopses and summaries, so I will have a slightly more authoritative statement on the situation in a week or so.
(The situation of the Strong Programme is debatable but is, in this specific context, demonized by the authors in a shallow and trivial way.)
VermillionBird 00:39, 2005 Mar 6 (UTC)
I read it twice ten years ago and I still remember the points they made. Far from critcizing post-modernist on theirs fields (linguistics, sociology,...) Sokal points out their repeated misuse of physics and mathematics in unrelated fields. I'm French and therefore can read most those authors in original version + My studies brought me deep enough in maths and physics = My conclusion is 1) Kristeva, Lacan, and co. all don't write in French 2) they try to use maths buzzwords to give a little bit of seriousness flavour to something that completely lacks of it 3) Sokal points are nearly all fully justified. To damper a little : Sokal apparently didn't understood Lacan's irony and "ponèria" (greek word refering to Aristophanes' heroes, something like 'comic roguery') and shouldn't have taken seriously all those jokes abouts small 'a', the mind being a 'torus' and so on. (I know a bit on this as I'm currently reading Lacan to Chinese students.) gbog 03:12, 2005 Mar 6 (UTC)
I don't agree with VB that Fashionable Nonsense should not be discussed; I just think it should be clear that there are two sides to the issue. I haven't read all of FN myself, but I've done a considerable amount of reading about the Sokal Hoax, and there are trenchant arguments on both sides of the discussion -- some of them from scientists and mathematicians who argue that Sokal is in error. But I am concerned that that side of the discussion is going to be lost, in an environment that, it must be admitted, is likely to attract a lot of strict philosophical realists. (More generally, I do agree with VB that their S & B's attitude is snide and unbecoming to a scholarly discussion.) Solemnavalanche 09:44, 1 May 2005 (UTC)

(resetting tab) I'm currently reading this book and see arguments for and against including this critique. For the record, Sokal and Bricmont criticize only the use of scientific concepts among 'postmodern' writers and find clear errors in Kristevia's use of mathematical theory (clear to anyone that has taken some level of post-Trig maths...I'd be glad to detail a few). So here's a list of argument for and against including the material that I may not necessarily agree with (feel free to add to this):

  • Potential arguments for including this info include:
  1. Kristevia (at least during some periods of her career) used the (often ironic) adaptation of scientific concepts as a central part of her work, for example as tools against claims that science can describe the physical world, the personality, etc. and as long as she is using these concepts in anything more than a poetic sense, blatant errors in their use are as important to point out in social theory as in science. Much of Lacan's thought, for example, is built around metaphors between the psyche and mathematical thought
  2. That misuse of scientific concepts is endemic of a deeper problem in recent humanistic thought: to overwhelm the reader with difficult concepts and extravagant claims which impress upon her the gravity (e.g. the strong grounding in science) of the concepts. From personal experience I think this argument applies to at least a few social theorists. I've known more than a few people seem to be drawn to Kristeva, Derrida, et. al. out of more of a desire to be associated with the latest crew of bohemians, or a love of abstract ideas (a drive that some of the more honest writers will admit).
  3. Relatedly, that at least some of the more complex ideas brought into social theory are not imported because they serve to make social ideas clearer or to give people a new way of looking at and living in the world, but as part of an 'academic pissing match' where the goal is to get the other side to admit that they 'don't get it' and by extension that the other person, academic camp is 'no longer relevant', obscure or missing some important dimension of social reality (been there, done that). The stakes are the ability to influence how society looks at the world and by extension politics and institutions (e.g. that gender is socially constructed or that science is one of many equally worldviews which should be accorded as much respect as religion or cultural beliefs).
  4. That Sokal and Bricmont's 'hoax' was well covered by the media (New York Times, Le Mondé, etc.) and is worthy of note even if only as a social phenomena. Postmodernism rarely makes it to the front pages otherwise :)
  • Potential arguments against including this information include (Sokal and Bricmont make counterarguments against some of these points):
  1. That these ideas are a trivial part of the scholarship of the authors they discuss
  2. If every criticism of Marx or other 'major social thinkers' were included in their wiki article, it would be unreadable.
  3. That the 'poetic license' or metaphor/analogy can excuse less than precise use of scientific concepts
  4. That social theory should be valued according to it's ability to provide useful patterns for understanding and reforming the world rather than their scientific verifiability (the neo-pragmatist argument well stated in Rorty's Contingeny, Irony and Solidarity)
  5. That the book is a product of the 'culture wars', lacking academic grounding or understanding of the underlying social concepts while masking a political bias against liberal thought

Anyhow, my personal opinion is that if the scientific concepts hold a central place in Kristeva's past or present work then the work deserves mention. Most criticisms of social thought are either elaborations or wholesale rejections on the grounds that the ideas are 'no longer relevant' (e.g. 'Forget Foucault') so an outside view of social thought is useful to the reader even if the critique is only focused on a small dimension of Kristeva's work. I plan to add a summary of the books thought on the subject and am interested in evaluating or expanding these reasons re: why or why not it belongs. Antonrojo 00:17, 23 June 2006 (UTC)
I agree that critiques of Kristeva's work should be mentioned. While it may make the page unreadable if a long and involved argument was elaborated here, it is important to note "arguments against". Perhaps the simplest way would be to note criticism and controversy and to link to other pages where those critcisms are more fully discussed. Sokal and Bricmont's criticisms of Kristeva's work are not trivial, but go to the heart of whether Kristeva has any credibility. I think it also may be worth mentioning that Kristeva's work is reliant on Freudian psycho-analysis, which is itself controversial, and has been thoroughly debunked by H. J Eysenck, amongst others. "Critical Theory" purports to be a method of criticising and judging the work of others, and as such should not be exempt from criticism and judgement itself.MarkAnthonyBoyle 20:19, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

As the article about Kristeva stands now, it is void of serious critism. Sokal and Bricmont has shown that Kristeva at one point in her career wrote about matters that she didn't understand. Thus, the critism pertains to her general credibility as an academic. Personally, I find that life is to short to devote much time to persons who have been exposed as incompetent or freuds, and I believe any encyclopedic article that omits this critism is incomplete. CoolDuckie 23:19, 14 January 2007 (UTC) K.S. Brønnick

I have read both Sokal and Bricmont FN and Kristeva's Semeiotike. And I have read both of them completely. Actually I bought Semeiotike to make sure that Sokal and Bricmont were not carring an attack ad personam. It was hard to believe that a respected intellectual could have written so wrong things. I also have a PhD in Electrical Engineering and my research interests are chaos theory and dynamical systems. I have no problems to say that my background in mathematics is quite solid. It is out of doubt that in Kristeva's Semeiotike mathematical concepts are used without the least understanding. Sokal and Bricmont have shown only a part of the mathematical misrepresentations presented by Kristeva in such a book. She doesn't have a clear concept of what "implication" means misquoting Bertrand Russell's Principles. She shows not to have understood Godel's theorem in more points of the book. She uses set properties out of context. She claims that there exists an isomorphism beetween two sets with different numbers of elements. She affirms that there is a non-empty set contained in an empty set... I could really go on for long. If you need the quotes I can provide them completely (in french and attemping an english translation, even if my english is quite poor). I have no prejudices about post-modernism, I simply report what I have read. I think that Sokal and Bricmont have written nothing wrong. If the matter is controversial (and according to me it shouldn't be, and if a mathematician says it is, s/he is in bad faith) it is sufficient to report some quotes saying they are controversial and letting the reader judge. My comments may seem hard, but I think to be a quite moderate person. What Kristeva uses is not mathematics at all, she uses just the names. 02/01/07 LuminosoMormorio

... which is very much what it's all about. Poststructuralists often use the lingo of natural science, in new ways to stimulate new thoughts. For instance, Deleuze uses expressions from botany and mechanics in a way that has little to do with those subjects. Traditional philosophy is often treated the same way, for instance by Derrida. Poststructuralist texts are ironic and ambiguous. The intention is not to present truths about reality, but to make the reader reflect on human understanding of social and cultural phenomena. Many scholars, even within the humanities, don't seem to see this, making themselves ridiculous by accusing poststructuralist either for making absurd assertions that's far from poststructuralist though (several examples above), or simply for them not being traditional (19/20th style) scientists. The critique raised by Sokal and others is about as relevant as if a lawyer should disqualify a natural scientist for using terms like 'laws' for natural phenomena, implying that he thereby use the term in the legal meaning of politically decided rules. So much said, Kristeva is a minor player on the poststructuralist scene. Her major credit is to make Mikhail Bakhtin known in the west. -- Linkomfod 18:41, 16 June 2007 (UTC)

Your example with laws in a courthouse and in physics does not hold. Easy to verify. Replace the word "law" in every book of physics with another word, let's say "sgrut". Physics will still stand rock-solid (in the parts where it is rock-solid!). No change, at all. We will have the Sgrut of Gravity, Quantum Sgruts... No lawyer could complain about that anymore. Conversely, in a book of Julia Kristeva we find some references to a something called "axiom of choice" which is (coincidentally) also expressed using some symbols absolutely identical to the symbols used in mathematics to describe the mathematical concept of "Axiom of Choice" (capital letters to distinguish it). Now, change the words "axiom of choice" in the work of Kristeva with, let'say, "grossa bufala". What happens to the logic symbols used to express it? Do they have the corresponding mathematical meaning? If they do, "grossa bufala" is exactly the very mathematical concept of "Axiom of Choice" and Kristeva is saying a lot of stupid things. If they do not, we have a string of symbols very similar to logic symbols, but with different meaning. The meanings of those symbols are not specified in the book. So we have a string of symbols (maybe an ET alphabet!), we do not know the meaning of. I think anybody can write a sequence of letters (and a very odd alphabet is even better!) and pretend they have any kind of meaning... By any chance, do you know what Kristeva means with those symbols? I also have a second very formal point. Replacing "axiom of choice" with "grossa bufala" the text loses at least part of its irony and its ambiguity, because it does not relate to the mathematical concept of "Axiom of Choice" anymore. This does not happen to our Sgruts of Physics, though. The meaning remains exactly the same. So your example is not proper, simply because it is not reproducing a similar situation. [[User:LuminosoMormorio|LuminosoMormorio] 24th July 2007]

Anyone wishing to show how useless Kristeva's work is for anything but arguments in the faculty lounge can go to her book on the Chinese Cultural Revolution, About Chinese Women. The great analyst was completely taken in. She spread propaganda for an era even the Chinese Communists now call a human catastrophe. Paul de Man shilling for the Nazis did no worse. Start here if you want to show what listening to her is worth. Profhum (talk) 07:03, 24 November 2007 (UTC)

I have re-included the link to Fashionable Nonsense. I (or someone else) should perhaps offer a brief summary of its criticisms here. Whether or not the criticisms are "legitimate", they are certainly noteworthy (at least insofar as they are hotly contested (as evidenced on this talk page)). The article can remain agnostic on the validity of the criticisms, but to intentionally suppress the mentioning of their existence is a frightening attempt to suppress the free flow of ideas and information. -KR, February 25, 2009 —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:13, 26 February 2009 (UTC)

KR, are you by any chance User:Karl-Peter? Anyway I'm afraid we measure noteworthiness by site policies and guidelines such as WP:RS, WP:DUE and WP:V. Additional it is far more balanced add critical material into teh body of the article rather than creating a section for it (see WP:CRITICISM). Other people here have pointed out the fact that according Sokal's criticisms prominence is problematic as regards WP:RS - see above--Cailil talk 11:44, 7 March 2009 (UTC)

She was severely criticized by some of her own peers already in the seventies for much the same stuff that Sokal would argue a quarter of a century later (only with a different target audience): inconsistency, lack of methodic rigour, misunderstood concepts hauled in from mathematics and sociology, vague metaphor-pervaded writing and use of ad hoc explanations and reasons. And this criticism came from people in the literary/language science and structuralist philosophy community in and outside of France, often people who defined themselves as "leftists" and/or feminists (and who were sometimes prone to dense writing themselves). The quote from Barthes in the current article sounds like having been, when it was uttered back in the day, effectively a way of distancing himself from discussing Kristeva's methods by saying: Ah, she is not an academic thinker really, she should be seen as a glorious rebel, a skilled guerrilla fighter (it was the age when the Che poster hung in student dorms and hangouts everywhere) - don't expect her to admit any critiscism as being justified.

Yep, this is a reply on a discussion that's a few years old, but the overall content of the article and the input of discussion of critical perspectives on JK has hardly changed much in the meantime it seems. (talk) 12:03, 6 June 2014 (UTC)

Yes to criticism section: I have just read Fashionable Nonsense, up to Kristeva. I had reas some original Kristeva during my (humanist) Uni studies. Sokal's arguments are strong: Kristeva is an impostor. Thus a Criticism section herein is long overdue.

Zezen (talk) 16:52, 23 August 2016 (UTC)

Context and technical tags[edit]

Both of these tags might be overkill and I think they both apply.

  • Context tag:

The reader is thrown into pretty complex arguments within the humanities without a real understanding of whether they are important. I don't mean that a general defense of liberal studies is required but that the issues be framed in terms of larger philosophical, political, etc. issues so readers have a frame of reference rather than wondering 'why should I bother to learn this when it seems so complex'...

  • Technical tag:

This article assumes the reader brings in a lot of knowledge. Terms such as 'abject mother' are technical terms (in the sense of jargon) that need explanation or grounding in simpler concepts. Examples couldn't hurt either. Antonrojo 19:12, 23 June 2006 (UTC)

"Novels" section[edit]

I've edited this section for clarity, and also removed some redundancies; i.e., repeated reference to "psychological" themes, and the claim that her fiction also contain elements of her academic / theoretical work. 00:14, 9 December 2006 (UTC)jj

External Links[edit]

Removed link identified as Spam

  • La literatura como cura en la obra de Julia Kristeva |in Revista Observaciones Filosoficas —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:55, 25 September 2007 (UTC)

Abject = Id?[edit]

Kristeva's abject reads pretty much like the pessimistic interpretation of Freud's Id as a threatening loss of control, loss of will, probably also as a loss of (civilized) self/identity, which Kristeva seems to mix with some being nothinged (being touched by nothing) due to negative experience, originally as a precondition for adult realism, a la Heidegger or Buddha. If so, couldn't the article be simplified a lot by referring to such an established, well-known concept such as Freud's Id? -- (talk) 05:45, 22 July 2008 (UTC)

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Collaboration with the communist regime[edit]

Why is the section about the collaboration with the communist regime marked as "alleged" and written as if it is disputed? That section is as proven as it can possibly be. An official institution provided the information including a lot of documents (scanned documents that can be seen online) proving this collaboration. In addition the very fact that she was let out of the country is indirect proof that she collaborated. I understand that she disputes it but this does not make the facts any less certain.

Stilgar (talk) 18:17, 9 April 2018 (UTC)

The expression "as if it is disputed" conveys a falsehood. The alleged "collaboration" is indeed disputed, strongly and vigorously, by Kristeva herself and not only by her. According to Alice Jardine, "a French literature professor at Harvard who is writing an intellectual biography of Ms. Kristeva", "Everyone is trying to keep an open mind, but nobody who knows anything about her or her work believes this". See the New York Times discussion here. Your comment appears to be taking sides against a living person, and that is unfortunate. What I would recommend is a discussion at the BLP noticeboard. FreeKnowledgeCreator (talk) 22:52, 9 April 2018 (UTC)
The topic is sensitive in Bulgaria, but according to the letter and the spirit of the law that treats the matter a registration card with the name and the few mandatory details is enough to qualify the person as a collaborator. This view has been confirmed by the Constitutional Court as there has been objections to it. In this sense Kristeva has been indisputedly a collaborator and the burden of proof lays on those who write 'alleged' or deny the authenticity of the card. (talk) 19:01, 10 April 2018 (UTC)
Please see the discussion at the BLP noticeboard. You can find it here. At present, there appears to be agreement that the allegation that Kristeva collaborated with the communist regime in Bulgaria should be mentioned only as an allegation and should not be presented as confirmed fact. FreeKnowledgeCreator (talk) 21:57, 10 April 2018 (UTC)

Neal Ascherson writes:[1]

In the same way the recent fuss about Julia Kristeva boils down to nothing much, although it has suited some to inflate it into a fearful scandal. Bulgarian security files from the communist period log her as an ‘agent’ and a ‘secret collaborator’. But the reality shown in her files is trivial. After settling in Paris in 1965, she was cornered by Bulgarian spooks who pointed out to her that she still had a vulnerable family in the home country. So she agreed to regular meetings over many years, in the course of which she seems to have told her handlers nothing more than gossip about Aragon, Bataille & Co. from the Left Bank cafés – stuff they could have read in Le Canard enchaîné. Surveillance dogged everything she did and everyone she met, but the combined intelligence value of its product and her reports was almost zero. The Bulgarian security men seem to have known they were being played. But never mind: they could impress their boss by showing him a real international celeb on their books, while expense-account meals with Kristeva at the Closerie des Lilas must have been agreeable.

This is a plausible reading (particularly in the context of the surrounding book review) and I think it's worth using in the article in some way. (talk) 21:58, 14 July 2018 (UTC)

I added a trimmed-down version of the above to the article. (talk) 23:08, 15 July 2018 (UTC)

Politically Motivated aditions?[edit]

The section "Denunciation of identity politics" seems oddly specific, probably politically motivated to show that Kristeva supposedly sides in a very prominent and recent debate, it just seems fishy and too prominent and long for an article this scrawny. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Il giovane bello 73 (talkcontribs) 07:02, 21 September 2018 (UTC)