Study Guide

Julia Kristeva Biography

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Basic Information


Julia Kristeva


The Anti-Feminists' Feminist, Post-Structuralist Hottie, Mother-Lover, The Abjectionator, "Theoretician of Desire and of Language"


Female—however, when a woman goes through childbirth, she produces her own symbolic phallus—which is just one of the many reasons why motherhood is so rewarding. Watch out, Paternal Controllers of the Symbolic! (You'll get that joke later…)

Home town

Like most famous French theorists, I was not, in fact, born in France. (See—France imports things, too.) I was born in Sliven, Bulgaria (world-renowned for its 1,000-year-old tree), which was run by Communists. Anyone who grows up in a Communist country will have a few stories to tell. In short, this environment had an influence on me. Why else would I beat a hasty retreat to Paris at age 24?

Work & Education


Analyst, academic, sociologist, writer, ambivalent feminist, structuralist, visionary, theorist, philosopher—I'm freakin' unstoppable. So, no, I don't "clock in" or have a nine-to-fiver, but I think eight days a week. Like other jet-setting intellectuals in global demand (or at least in the Western world), I have held many appointments and academic positions, all the while practicing psychoanalysis.

I have served as the chair of linguistics at the University of Paris and taught as a visiting professor at Columbia University in New York. I then received tenure at the Paris VII University at Jussieu. Now I write fiction and grant endless interviews. Plus, I constantly update my website so people know how wide-ranging my interests and accolades are.


I studied at the University of Sofia (in Bulgaria), then went to the City of Lights, where I earned my PhD in linguistics in 1974 from the School of Higher Education in Social Sciences. My dissertation was titled La Revolution du langage (The Revolution of Poetic Language). No slouch, I later undertook some serious study of Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis and trained to be an analyst myself. I then received tenure at the Paris VII University at Jussieu.


Political views

So, as I was saying, I grew up in Communist Bulgaria—and that kind of environment can affect a kid. As a member of Tel Quel (see "Comrades" for a description of that group), I definitely had affiliations with the French Communist Party, but we collectively broke with that scene in 1971 and pledged our loyalty to Maoism, which we proceeded to bail on five years later. As for me, I'm not as much into collective identity as I am into the individual's experience, language, the body, and subjectivity.

Religious views

My family was Orthodox Christian, but I grew up in a Communist country, which didn't exactly promote religion. I like to talk about religion in terms of a "crisis of meaning" not just because it sounds catchy but also because I think it's true (source).

Let it be known at the outset that I'm sort of on the same page as Nietzsche when it comes to the whole "God is dead" thing (atheism alert)—but just because God is dead doesn't mean we can't talk about him (or her), and it doesn't mean that beliefs in God aren't significant.

When I talk about religion, I usually relate it to language and the ways we signify meaning. As I said in one interview: "I am not a believer, I believe in words. There is only one resurrection for me—and that is in words […] I'm not Catholic by background. My father was a very great believer, but in the Orthodox Church, in Bulgaria […] My idea is to link religion with politics and see how in both of them there were, and will be, a lot of crimes and human folly" (source).

Activities & Interests


The individual and the individual voice
Avant-garde literature
The mother-child bond
Personal writing
Sexual fluidity


Abstract deconstructivism
Haters of French theory
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
The American psychoanalytic movement
Collectivism and communitarian ideology
The oppressions of paternalistic law
The idea of "master thinkers"
The canon
Sexual anesthesia


Production vs. Reproduction
Psychosis and borderline states
The symbolic vs. the semiotic
The subject-in-process
Human beings as open systems
The moral imperative
The idea of the "crisis" in history
Fighting the good fight (whatever that may mean at the moment)


Feminists for Oneness with Mommy
The Pre-Oedipalists
The Abjectors
Theorists Against Totalitarian Identity
The Chick Lit Crits

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