Kriteva on Motherhood and the Maternal Body
1. Stanton, Domna claims that "in their maternal metaphorizations,
Irigaray, Cixous and Kristeva countervalorize the traditional antithesis
that identifies man with culture and confines woman to instinctual nature,
"always childlike, always savage" (Cixous 57). And they reproduce
the dichotomy between male rationality and female materiality, corporeality,
and sexuality. . ." Do you agree?
A. Kristeva's Key Concepts:
(From Revolution in Poetic Language)
The chora --
"Neither model nor copy, the chora precedes and underlies figuration
and thus specularization, and is analogous only to vocal or kinetic rhythm.
. . . Plato . . . calls this receptacle or chora nourishing and maternal.
. . the place where the suject is both generated and negated, . . . We
shall call this process of charges and stases a negativity. . ."
"a psychosomatic modality of the signifying process; . . . one articulating
. . . a continuum: the connections between the (glottal and anal) sphincters
in (rhythmic and intonational) vocal modulations, (96)
"a social effect of the relation to the other, established through
the objective constraints of biological (including sexual) differences
and concrete, historical family structures. " (97)
"All enunciation, whether of a word or of a sentence, is thetic.
It requires an identification; in other words, the subject must separate
from and through his image, from and through his objects." (98)
B. "Motherhood According to Bellini" in Desire
(Ref. "Bellini's Madonna and Child)
|Bellini's work a changing relationship to the image
of the mother revealed in depictions that emphasize the Madonna as
"coldly distant and impassive" (253), possessive and seductive,
and finally hostile. For Kristeva, the fascination with the mother-figure
revolves around her investment as a "privileged space and living
area" (264), the point of contact with a certain jouissance by
virtue of her unique experience of connection with an other (that
is, through pregnancy and childbirth), and her status as a "nature/culture
threshold" (242). Such paintings are thus an effort to grasp,
impossibly, "ineffable jouissance, beyond discourse, beyond narrative,
beyond psychology, beyond lived experience and biography - in short,
beyond figuration" (247). (source)
- the maternal body
-- in two discourses -- medical and Christian theology --> the image
of the mother as tenderness, love and seat of social conservation. p.
p. 304 always splitting
1) unsymbolized instinctual drives vs. the mamma that 'warrants
that everything is' --> symbolic coherence;
2) a place of a splitting, a filter and a threshhold between nature
3) the heterosexual paternal facet--> to bear a child
of the father (who, as devalorized man, serves to originate and
justify reporductive desire)
4)the homosexual-maternal facet of motherhood. -->p.
305 -- mother as the reunion of a woman-mother with the body of
"The homosexual-maternal facet is a whirl of words, a complete
absence of meaning and seeing; it is feeling, displacement, rhythm,
sound, flashes, and fantasied clinging to the maternal body as a
screen against the plunge."
5 ) a subject in process--she is within an enceinte separating her
from the world of everyone else. A tendency toward "equalization"
which does not reduce "differentiations." Jouissance,
an ultimate danger for identity, but also supreme power of symbolic
instance thur retrning to matters of its concern. Sublimiation here
is both eroticizing without residue and a disaapearance of eroticism
as it returns to its source.
- p. 307 the Mother . . . is presumed to exist at the very place where
(social and biological) identity recedes. p. 308 any negation of this
utilitarian, social and symbolic aspect of motherhood plunges into regression--but
a particular regression whose currently recognized manifestations lead
to the . . .negation of symbolic position, and to a justification of
this regression under the aegis of the same Phallic mother-screen.
- The language of art . . . follows (but differently and more
closely) the other aspect of maternal jouissance, the sublimation taking
place at the very moment of primal repression within the mother's body,
arising perhaps unwittingly out of her marginal position. . . . The
artist speaks from a place where she is not, where she knows not. He
delineates what, in her, is a body rejoicing.
- the maternal function: to some extent anyone can fulfill the maternal
function, men or women.
C. "Stabat Mater" from Tales
1. writes of her own experience of childbirth
(p. 319) --a flow of sensations, connectedness of the child to her and
its separation and her sense of emptiness.
Nights of wakefulness, scattered sleep, sweetness of the child, warm
mercury in my arms, cajolery, affection, defenceless body, his or
mine, sheltered, protected. A wave swells again, when he goes to sleep,
under my skin - tummy, thighs, legs: sleep of the muscles, not of the
brain, sleep of the flesh. The wakeful tongue quietly remembers another
withdrawal, mine: a blossoming heaviness in the middle of the bed, of
a hollow, of the sea...
--remembering her own mother and her hatred. (p. 325)
"I yearn for the Law. And since it is not made for me alone, I venture
to desire outside the law."
2. mythologization of Mary in three directions (pp. 313-)
1) from depriving her of sin to depriving her of death; (--> Neither
Sex nor Death)
2) she needs political power (as a Queen--> Image of Power)
3) prototype of a lover relation in Western culture (in child love and
consequences of the "virginal maternal" --
"feminine masochism," "feminine paranoia," "feminine
1. The Virgin assumes her feminine denial of the other sex
(of man) but overcomes him by setting up a third person: I do not conceive
with you but with Him. The result is an immaculate conception (therefore
with neither man nor sex), conception of a God with whose existence a
woman has indeed something to do, on condition that she acknowledge being
subjected to it.
2. The Virgin assumes the paranoid lust for power by
changing a woman into a Queen in heaven and a Mother of the earthly institutions
(of the Chruch). But she succeeds in stifling that megalomania by putting
it on its knees before the child-god.
3. The Virgin obstructs the desire for murder or devouring by means of
a strong oral cathexis (the breast), valorization of pain (the sob) and
incitement to replace the sexed body with the ear of understanding.
4. The Virgin assumes the paranoid fantasy of being excluded from time
and death through the very flattering representation of Dormition or Assumption.
5. The Virgin especialy agrees with the repudiation of the other
woman (which doubtless amounts basically to a repudiation of the woman's
mother) by suggesting the image a A Unique Woman: alone among
women, alone among mothers, alone among humans since she is without sin.
But the acknowledgement of a longing for uniqueness is immediately checked
by the postulate according to which uniqueness is attained only through
an exacerbated masochism: a concrete woman, worthy of the feminine ideal
embodied by the Virgin as an inaccessable goal, could only be a nun, a
martyr or, if she is married, one who leads a life that would remove her
from the 'earthly' condition and dedicate her to the highest sublimation
alien to her body...
--> silence; feminine perversion.p. 330
--> left out: mother-daughter conflicts; the other sex
--> the undefinable maternal body pp. 324 -
2) A mother is a continuous separation, a division of the very flesh.
And consequently a division of the language.
3) the abyss betewen the mother and the child. . . The child, irremediably
4) Women doubtless reproduce among themselves the strange gamut of forgotten
body relations with their mothers. p. 325
5) relations with the other woman. p. 326
p. 326 "Within this strange feminine see-saw that
makes 'me' swing from the unnameable community of women over to the war
of individual singularities, it is unsettling to say 'I' The languages
of the great formerly matriarchal civilizations must avoid, do avoid,
personal pronouns: they leave to the context the burden of distinguishing
protagonists and take refuge in tones to recover an underwater, trans-verbal
communication between bodies. It is a music from which so-called oriental
civility tears away suddenly through violence, murder, blood baths. A
woman's discourse, would that be it? Did not Christianity attempt, among
other things, to freeze that see-saw? To stop it, tear women away from
its rhythm, settle them permanent in the spirit? Too permanently . . ."）