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Kristeva, Psychoanalysis and Culture : Subjectivity in Crisis

Gambaudo, SA.


SA. Gambaudo


The thesis examines Julia Kristeva's contention that contemporary Western society is witnessing a crisis of subjectivity due to the failure of the paternal function. The first part introduces Kristeva's overall thesis (chapter 1) and the concept of "paternal function" within (Freudian) psychoanalytic thought (chapter 2) and subsequently examines its failure and the consequences for subjectivity (chapter 3). The second part analyses Kristeva's belief that faced with a failure of the paternal function, the contemporary subject is turning towards an apprehension of itself preceding the moment of failure and renewing a bond with the maternal (chapter 4). A re-theorising of the maternal thus offers much prospect first in understanding the crisis of subjectivity and second in renewing the subject's contract with the socio-symbolic sphere. In chapter 5, the "maternal" is defined within Freudian, Kleinian and Kristevan contexts, comparing and contrasting the three approaches and pointing out the relationship between "paternal" and "maternal". Finally, in a cultural context privileging scientific answers over aesthetic considerations, the difficulties and impasses in the attempt to access and analyse the maternal are emphasised. The third part thus re-examines subjectivity in the context of findings and suggests that following the failure of the paternal function and the difficulties in symbolising the maternal, a new type of subject and society have emerged. Freud's work on narcissism is re-visited (chapter 6) and questioned in the light of contemporary readings of Narcissus (chapter 7). Chapter 8 describes how a narcissistic society can be construed as both a defence against the failure of the paternal function and a resistance against its potential renewal through a re-theorising of the maternal.


Gambaudo, S. (2007). Kristeva, Psychoanalysis and Culture : Subjectivity in Crisis. Ashgate Publishing

Book Type Authored Book
Publication Date 2007-05
Deposit Date Feb 11, 2009
Series Title Ashgate new critical thinking in philosophy
ISBN 075465561X7
Publisher URL
Additional Information Series title: Ashgate New Critical Thinking in Philosophy.