Julia Kristeva works at a crucial intersection of contemporary disciplines: psychoanalysis, linguistics, semiotics, literary criticism, feminism, postmodern philosophy, and religious studies. This volume examines this rich body of work and the ways in which its interdisciplinary style gives insight into problems in understanding religion. Special attention is given to two related themes: the understanding of woman in relation to religion and the role of mother (especially of mother's body) in the formation of self and of a religious discourse.
Issues recurrent in the essays include the problem of ethics; the relation between discourse and the life of the body; the formation and sublimation of narcissism; the pre-Oedipal function of the father; the functions of fantasy, imagination, and art; the relation of religion to the negation of woman; and the possibility of positive and playful religion. The themes of the relation between the symbolic structures of language and a pre-symbolic semiotics of the infant body, of the split and decentered subject, and of the opposition between desire and Jouissance (ecstatic enjoyment) participate in organizing the discussion. Abjection and sacrifice in religion, the dynamics of Christian love and faith, the relation between the doctrine of the Virgin Mary and the experience of motherhood, and the question of feminism and its sometimes quasi-religious forms are also thematic.
David Crownfield is Professor of Religion and Philosophy at the University of Northern Iowa. He is co-editor of Lacan and Theological Discourse, also published by SUNY Press.
"What I like most about this book is that it provides a useful corrective to the overwhelming tendency to dismiss French feminism as essentialist. None of the contributors to this volume assume Kristeva is an essentialist. Some assume that she is not, while others for the most part argue for a more sympathetic and less biologically reductionist view of her work. Given the centrality of the essentialism/anti-essentialism controversy to recent feminist debates, the book presents a valuable addition to and extension of that debate, clarifying what the issues are but not assuming a common consensus. " — Tina Chanter, Commonwealth Center for Literary and Cultural Change, University of Virginia