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:
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).