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The ethical and political function of revolt in Julia Kristeva's novels Rus, Laura Bianca


This study examines the various ways in which Julia Kristeva’s novels complement her theoretical writings in reflecting on and responding to the cultural and political crises of European identity and the urgency of assuming responsibility for its heritage. By foregrounding Eastern and Western European aspects of her thought, Kristeva’s novels develop and illustrate the view that the crisis of Europe is not just collective, cultural and political. It also entails the suffering of individuals who are physically and/or psychologically oppressed and repressed, with a particular focus on female foreigners whose capacity to participate in the production of “what” and “who” is counted as European is limited or stifled. Kristeva’s notion of revolt, seen as an important aspect of European tradition, serves as a framework to examine her four novels, and the first chapter presents a critical account of the ethical, therapeutic and political functions of revolt in her novels. The four subsequent chapters provide a detailed analysis of the novels, each examining one particular aspect of revolt. In analysing The Samurai, the notion of writing as thought serves to examine the impact of the French Revolution and May 1968 on women and foreigners. The Old Man and the Wolves illustrates individual resistance against a totalitarian regime through action as thought. In Possessions, a focus on imaginary decapitations in relation to matricide reveals the emergence of specular thought as a form of revolt. Murder in Byzantium provides an account of thought as freedom, in a Europe (past and present) where the society of the spectacle (from religion to consumerism) leaves little room for individual creative or critical expression. This research shows how Kristeva situates feminine sensibility and creativity as alternative spaces that can generate new ways for rethinking the cultural and political memory of Europe, in such a way as to assume responsibility for its heritage as well as for its future.

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