The roots of semanalysis; Julia Kristeva’s masters in semiotics
Marga van Mechelen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Julia Kristeva was born in 1941 in Bulgaria and migrated to France in the mid-sixties. She is now considered as one of the most important French ‘thinkers’, an umbrella for her disciplinary relations to philosophy, psychoanalysis, literary and cultural theory, and semiotics. She is also called a revolutionary thinker, because she was able to break down the boundaries between these and other disciplines. Accordingly the prefix ‘re’ played a major role in her life and work. In this roundtable we will return to her roots in semiotics, to maybe the masters of semiotics (Mikhael Bakhtin, Émile Benveniste, Roland Barthes, Louis Hjelmslev etc.), to her development of (psycho)semiotic concepts out of the concepts of ‘these masters’, as for example the concepts of intertextuality and discourse, and to semiotic topics and questions that dominated her work in general. We know her also from her rereading of Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan and Georges Bataille, and her interest in the complexity of signifying processes. A return to these heritages and traditions formed the bases for the renewal of semiotics and psychoanalysis, in a field of research that for ever will be associated with her name: semanalysis.
1) Marga van Mechelen
Julia Kristeva’s path to semanalysis (and Émile Benveniste role in it)
Julia Kristeva’s concept of ‘signifiance’ has its origin in Benveniste’s ‘Semiologie de la langue’ (1969). In his search for an answer to the question ‘What is the value of the sign?’ he comes, after a long reasoning, to the conclusion that the notion of the sign itself is a major obstacle. To remove it, it is necessary, at least according to Kristeva, to burst the analytical instruments or methods that have a text immanent focus. But maybe even more important is to have attention for what exceeds language. This will remain the focal point for the rest of her intellectual life. The moment Kristeva takes this step, as said inspired by Émile Benveniste (1902-1976), she also starts introducing her own concepts. The most central one is ‘sémanalyse’, defined as what reunites both Benveniste’s concept of ‘sémantique’ and ‘translinguistique’. In the same way Kristeva sees his (and her) notion of signifiance as the container of pheno-text and geno-text. She stresses that there is in each ‘text’ a continual oscillation between the two. From here it is just one step in a further ‘animation’ of the discours, as a manifestation of the real life communication, to go and look at what Freud had to say about the intervention of psychoanalytical processes in translinguistic messages. In this respect Benveniste’s ‘Remarques sur la function du langage dans la découverte Freudienne’ (1956) was inspiring for her, as well as his ‘De la subjectivité dans la langage’ (1958/1966); the first results we can find in ‘La fonction prédicative et le sujet parlant’ (1975), that can be considered as a hommage to Benveniste.
Though we know what brought her all this in the end, for her research on semanalytic practices, what were, in detail, her arguments that led to the introduction of her dynamic notions, such as signifiance and sémanalyse, and to a farewell to the sign, around which ‘semiotic theory’ was (and still is) circling? Maybe other questions are relevant as well. As for example: where did her path and that of Greimas separate in their different readings of Benveniste? Is Benveniste or Kristeva the founder or foundress of sémanalyse or psychosemiotics?
2) Inna Semetsky
Subject in process: semanalysis of pictorial texts
Semiotics includes extra-linguistic modalities, and pictures can be "read" and narrated as "texts". My paper will apply Kristeva' s semanalysis to the unorthodox pictorial "text" comprising Tarot images and symbols. The paper will demonstrate how Kristeva's "subject in process" is constituted via reading and interpreting Tarot images and as informed (contra Freudian psychoanalysis) by Jung's analytical psychology and his theory of archetypes.
3) Fatima Festić
Semanalysis, Psychoanalysis, and Poststructuralist Feminism
Taking the concept of semanalysis as Kristeva's proposition of a cross-disciplinary work on that which is trans-, beneath- and also beyond the linguistic, it is logical and inevitable to read its psychoanalytic stems, specifically from Freud and Lacan, along with its further dispersal and redirection or utilization in poststructuralist feminism.
The paper will show how the playfield of these interacting lines - as sign-dissolving into productivity of the signifying model-practice or the textual process of permutation - re-elucidates Kristeva's concept of semiotic also as providing with a political dimension the sought out "deeper and hidden meanings". This connection also points that Kristeva's debt to her psychosemiotic "masters", as well as the contribution of psychoanalysis to women's emancipation are far greater than the obstacles to it (in denying women's symbolization). Particularly, the unravelling of the importance of the unconscious mental life and of infantile sexuality - which informs Kristeva's work on the dialectical relation between the symbolic and semiotic and on the maternal abjection in patriarchal cultures, as well as that it informs the conceiving of gender as a fluid state attained via psychosocial development rather than a biological category.
Furthermore, it is poststructuralist profiling (Lacan's semioticizing Freud, Kristeva's rewriting their common equalling of women with negative/death/lack/void and her further tuning with Cixous and Irigaray) that well shows what semanalysis is about, and what it can lead to. For example, women's articulation of their jouissance within the symbolic without relinquishing any of their difference, changing the forms of representation and the ways knowledge is inscribed, viewing the language through the prisms of history and of individual psychic, sexual, cultural experiences that come before collective identities.
4) Susan Petrilli, Augusto Ponzio
Semanalysis and linguistics in Julia Kristeva
As early as 1969 in Semeiotiké Kristeva had already attempted a sort of short-circuit by connecting the linguistic approach and the semiotic approach to the psychoanalytic approach with her proposal of “semanalysis”. She compares the Cartesian ego, the transcendental ego theorized by Husserlian phenomenology and the self of utterance linguistics with the doubling of the subject theorized by Freud and his theory of the unconscious. To focus on the unconscious means to modify the object of linguistics given that this implies to describe signification as a heterogeneous process.
Kristeva a essayé par sa semanalyse déjà dés 1969 dans Semeiotiké. une sort de court-circuit par la connexion de l' approche linguistique et de l'approche sémiotique avec l'approche psychanalytique, en proposant sa "sémanalyse". Aussi bien l'ego cartésien que l'ego transcendantal de la phénoménologie husserlienne et le sujet de la linguistique de l'énonciation ils sont tous confrontés avec le dédoublement du sujet que Freud a mis en forme lorsqu'il a proposé sa théorie de l'inconscient. La prise en considération de l'inconscient modifie fondamentalement l'objet de la linguistique parce qu'elle implique qu'on décrive la signification comme processus hétérogène.
5) Dr. F. Deniz Özden, İstanbul University Fine Arts Department
The fountain as an informative structure
Jakobson is regarded as one of the most prominent forerunners of the 20th century linguistics. In his studies on phonetics he particularly ascribed a dynamic quality to synchrony and instead of searching the roots of phonological transformations, he studied the orientation of these transformations. In addition to his studies on phonetics, he was interested in language functions and literary issues occured during communication. Through separetely analysing the cases that were dominated by one of the elements of communication, including addresser (sender), addressee (receiver), context, contact, code and message.
Play function was added to Jakobson’s functions later on and it was emphasized that it was the most important function in late 20th century and in early 21st century. According to Jakobson the subject of the literature, which is predominated by the literary functions, should give priority to seek answer to this question: “What turns a linguistic message into an art? Since this subject is related to the characteristics that differenciate language art from other arts and other types of language behaviours, literature deserves the top rank in literary analysis.
The reason to build monuments related to common ideals and beliefs in big cities, where exists hectic community life, is to survive spiritual values. In other words, they convey a message. To provide an example of a semiotic analysis in the context of urban characteristics, artistic/literature functions, metaphor or play functions that were mentioned above, Ummu Gulsum Hatun Fountain will be analysed in my presentation. Ummu Gulsum Hatun Fountain is a design, not only for its simple form and its function, but also for its cultural identity that carries message and information.
Sculpturing is forbidden in Islamic belief so we might accept fountains and grave stones as were they statues. The form is the most important thing as far as the art-statue relation concerns and wil be analized by using the thought of Julia Kristeva and Michail Bachtin in my paper.