Resistant spaces in Kristeva and Foucault, and their literary formation in Barnes and Lorde.

Catherine. Ball, Elaine
(1999) Resistant spaces in Kristeva and Foucault, and their literary formation in Barnes and Lorde. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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This thesis examines, in the light of Julia Kristeva's and Michel Foucault's recent theorisations of the productions of meaning, the work of two authors, Djuna Barnes and Audre Lorde, whose writing, it argues, sets up virtual spaces which can become places of resistance to the normative functioning of a given culture. Having sketched a philosophical background to notions of extra-linguistic space through reference to Plato, Kant, Hegel and Lacan, the first chapter considers what is distinctive in the theories of space provided by Kristeva, who (in Revolution in Poetic Language) develops Plato's notion of the chora functioning at times as a synonym for "semiotic articulation". The semiotic (le semiotique) is employed by Kristeva in a very precise way. It represents a convolution of expressions: operating as a drive system within the body that affects the structure of language (understood by her as the symbolic), as a "network of marks" that breaches the established sign systems, and as a revolutionary process that is responsible for the transgression and articulation of new meanings. Because both the semiotic and the symbolic are an inseparable part of the signifying processes of language, they together act as pathways of production. Of all these various processes and relations, the most remarkable one is that these two modalities are genderised: the semiotic chora is "enigmatic and feminine, th[e] space underlying the written"; while the symbolic is a "phallic function". That being so, one of the main features of this thesis is to articulate a feminist argument in relation to Kristeva, expounding on the notion of the spatial concept of the semiotic chora as a "resistance" to phallocentrism. The second chapter sets out to explore Foucault's spatial reasoning. My argument is that space is central to Foucault's concerns. This is demonstrated in several ways. First I suggest that Foucault's interpretation of a social construction of space is such that the subject is connected to its own fashioning processes. Second, by introducing space into his documentation of history, Foucault sets in motion a dispersion of society's master narratives. In respect of this, I argue that a methodology can be formed from Foucault's spatial term "heterotopia", where contingent sites, rather than causes, shape new discourses and open up possibilities of resistance against the techniques and tactics of domination. Because (as Foucault writes in The Order of Things) the heterotopia serves to "desiccate speech, stop words in their tracks, contest the very possibility of grammar at its source", it not only produces discourse, it challenges all boundaries and remains essentially fluid, escaping the matrix of historical category. The next three chapters consider the implications of Kristeva's definition of the semiotic chora which, as briefly mentioned above, is constituted by psychosomatic drives. Hence, mood plays a central role in the semiotic chora. I construct a reading of Nightwood the main tenet of which is to examine the textual variations of Kristeva's resistant and abject `language'. Located in melancholy, incest, and discontentednesse ach trope forms individual chapterse xploring ways in which the limits of language are transgressed. Taken as a whole, the theme running through the three chapters on Nightwood is that new literary formations arise when the abject as mood becomes structured and made meaningful by the symbolic. The last two chapters examine Foucault's position in relation to Kristeva's, and argue that Kristeva's and Foucault's spatial thinking questions the appearance of finality and completeness in language. These chapters also provide a practical application of Foucault's heterotopia, in which spaces between contingent sites are shaped by Lorde. It is argued that opportunities of resistance are provided by Lorde who, naming her disparate position against the master narratives that fail to recognise her, locates her difference from them. In conclusion, a feminist reading of Kristeva's chora and Foucault's heterotopia reveals an opening to resistant spaces and new paths of production of meaning. Chora and heterotopia, then, are not merely abstract philosophical concepts, but powerful tools of reading, as is shown by their application in the interpretation of the works of Barnes and Lorde.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 20 Oct 2023 17:56
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2023 17:58
DOI: 10.17638/03175321
Copyright Statement: Copyright © and Moral Rights for this thesis and any accompanying data (where applicable) are retained by the author and/or other copyright owners. A copy can be downloaded for personal non-commercial research or study, without prior permission or charge.