Kristeva moments

Julia Kristeva came to the Outpost to receive an honorary doctorate by the Outpost University. The ceremony took place yesterday and then the potentates posed for an official photo, which is how I shot mine:

Honorary doctorate

Now, Kristeva being an institutional celebrity intellectual, a mandarin of Thought from within the larger circle of obfuscators (Derrida), misreaders (Barthes), sophists (Baudrillard) and clueless terminology-abusers (Lacan, Deleuze) known as the postmodernists, or deconstructionists, or simply theorists, there was a certain dark horizon of expectations to be entertained.

However, Kristeva came out as a very warm individual, low key (considering) and forthcoming. Her address was clear and straightforward — at times demonstrating profound insight into matters of human psyche, society and the interaction (or ‘struggle’?) between the two. At least in her address, rather than restating the obvious in pompously impenetrable verbiage, as some of the aforementioned would happily do, she gave an outline of her work and thought with an interesting touch of autobiography — surely a legacy of her involvement with psychoanalysis.

Jod insists the simplicity of her address — besides due to her having been asked to speak in English (!!!) — reflected her own expectations regarding the place and the audience: the University is less than 20 years old and the Outpost is not exactly famous for its intellectuals, artists and scientists (a situation I hope will very soon change). Moreover, the actual audience did contain its fair share of diplomats and the usual movers and shakers (i.e. those who decide to leave their seat, getting everyone in the row to stand up, roughly 4 minutes before a speaker finishes only to return to it 2 minutes later). So, Jod argued, she basically talked down to us: “Kristeva would not normally spend 5 minutes of a talk to explain both what intertextuality is and the necessity of looking into it!”, she said.

I think I agree, if I judge from the almost permanent look of bewilderment on her face — a look she however managed to conceal quite effectively, with a little help from good manners and what seemed like ‘good nature’ on her behalf. After all, one thing French intellectuals, even the haughty and pretentious ones, possess is manners (which brings them in stark contrast with certain American characters). Yes, but why bewilderment? Well, there were indeed moments where one had the feeling of attending a visit of the Queen to the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, something along these lines. Anyway.

We afterwards had dinner at a very expensive restaurant, with tables arranged as if for a wedding banquet (so, about half of us ate with our backs turned to the guest of honour). One of the waiters sported an untucked shirt. The chardonnay smelled like Gizmo piss. The food was right but flavourless. Anyway (again).

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6 thoughts on “Kristeva moments

  1. I know that this my comment is not really about what you are describing, but seriously, you simply can’t say that Derrida is an obfuscator, and Barthes is a misreader (i do not dwell into the others cause i don’t really know them, and it seems to me that remaining within what you know is a sound tactic). And you can’t because the follwing terminology you use, is simply wrong and ignorant. Lacan, Kristeva and Deleuze, as well as the vast majority of Barthes’s writings are in no way deconstructionist. Deconstruction is a very particular, very specific way of questioning and not a catch-phrase for the wrong endeavours of french thought. Also one would like to know exactly what the term postmodernists can be said to denote. You seem like a clever person, and the fact that you use so unsuitable temrs to group together some thinkers that can not really be said to be members of the same movement (Derrida and Lacan together?!), is intellectual complacency, if not ignorance. And i really don’t want to come off as correcting your mistakes. If you had said such things in an honest attempt to describe what you perceive as group, i would just bagger off. But saying wrong things in an arrogant and derisory tone, is not just a matter of right and wrong (which, in any case, is always debatable), but it is a matter of being just and fair to what you are describing.

    P.S. Please don’t label me as an unabashed fun of a so-called postmodernist school of thought. I really disagree with a lot of Kristeva’s and Lacan’s doctrines, and i find Barthes to be too shallow (even though i think he is moving and charmingly sensitive).

  2. I re-read my comment, and i think i may have been too aggressive. I apologise if that was (is) the case, it was not my intention and it was certainly uncalled for.

  3. Well, let’s call them ‘French theorists’ or something, or ‘the Paris Circle’, or the ‘Tel/Quel’ crowd.

    What is important (and highly problematic) is that they introduced and cultivated metaphor as an analytical tool — a much more general and severe problem than mere appropriation and misapplication of terminology on their behalf. Now, Barthes’ work rests on an extensive misreading of Saussure; Deleuze is a charlatan and Lacan a dangerous charlatan (dangerous in the sense that real people with real disorders could and do seek lacanian ‘psychoanalytic’ assistance). While Derrida makes a number of possibly valid points, although not novel ones: consider Heidegger, Nietzsche and (French) existentialists among others, he does so in a verbiage both obscure and pretentiously convoluted.

    Now, I like Foucault. A great mind (too), but, unlike the others, he bothered reading and thinking matters over before writing.

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