Grace Wen 488206088
Dr. Kate Liu
Literary Criticism II
May 23, 2000
Julia Kristevaˇ¦s Revolution in Poetic Language
I. In this book, Kristevaˇ¦s aim is to investigate the workings of ˇ§poetic languageˇ¨ as a signifying practice, that is, as a semiotic system generated by speaking subject within a social, historical field.
A. From the nineteenth century to nowadays, literature is no longer just ˇ§representation.ˇ¨
B. Whatˇ¦s signifying practice?
C. Whatˇ¦s the meaning of the title, Revolution in Poetic Language?
D. All language acts are merely partial realizations of the possibilities inherent in ˇ§poetic language.ˇ¨
II. A Prolegomenon: Kristeva forecasts the argument to come.
A. Literary practice should liberate from linguistic, psychic, and social network.
B. The signifying practice, a particular type of modern literature, raises a crisis which is also a new phenomenon.
1. The ˇ§shattering of discourse reveals that linguistic changes constitute changes in the status of the subjectˇ¨ (451).
2. The capitalist mode of production integrates ˇ§their process qua processˇ¨ (451).
3. The crisis, explosion, or shattering reveals process of signifiance.
C. Literature or the ˇ§textˇ¨ becomes an instrument of productive violence.
D. Text is a practice, a means of transforming ˇ§natural and social resistance, limitation, and stagnationˇ¨ (452).
E. The heterogeneous process is a ˇ§structuring and destructing practiceˇ¨ (453).
III. The Semiotic Chora Ordering the Drives:
A. The two inseparable modes within the signifying process are the semiotic and the symbolic.
B. Whatˇ¦s the meaning of ˇ§semioticˇ¨?
1. It is a Greek term: mark or trace
2. It is familiar to Freudian psychoanalytic theory: the structure of drives, the primary process of the displacement
C. Whatˇ¦s chora?
1. It is the enclosed space, womb
2. Borrowed from Platoˇ¦s idea, it is ˇ§an essentially mobile and extremely provisional articulation constituted by movements and their ephemeral stasesˇ¨ (453).
D. The stage of the semiotic precedes the establishment of the sign.
E. The semiotic chora is the place where ˇ§the subject is both generated and negated, the place where his unity succumbs before the process of changes and stases that produce himˇ¨ (455).
F. Poetry, the mystery in literature, is generated with a rhythmic feminine space.
IV. The Thetic: Rupture and/ or Boundary:
A. The thetic phase is a break in the signifying process, establishing the identification of the subject and its object as precondition pf propositionalityˇ¨ (456).
B. There exists only one signification ˇ§which contains the object as well as the proposition, and the complicity between themˇ¨ (44*)
A. The signifying process is to ˇ§break through any given sign for the subject, and reconstitute the heterogeneous space of its formationˇ¨ (457).
B. The drive process needs a text as a medium through which they move and into which they seep.
C. The text is a force for social change.
Poetic language introduces the subversive openness of the semiotic across societyˇ¦s closed symbolic order.
Note: Signifying Practice (quoted from Kristevaˇ¦s La Traversee des Signes):
I shall call signifying practice the establishment and the countervailing of a sign system. Establishing a sign system calls for the identity of a speaking subject within a social framework, which he recognizes as a basis for that identity. Countervailing the sign system is done by having the subject undergo an unsetting, questionable process; this indirectly challenges the social framework with which he had previously identified, and it thus coincides with times of abrupt changes, renewal, or revolution in society. (Hawthorn 191)
Hawthorn, Jeremy. A Concise Glossary of Contemporary Literary Theory. 2nd ed. London: Arnold, 1994.
Kristeva, Julia. *Revolution in Poetic Language. Trans. Margaret Waller. New York: Columbia UP, 1984.
---. ˇ§Revolution in Poetic Language.ˇ¨ Literary Theory: An Anthology. Eds. Julia Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Oxford: Blackwell, 1998. 451-463.