Julia Kristeva

 

Kristeva on the Symbolic and the Semiotic elements of signification:

 

Semiotic elements: the drives as they discharge into language, associated with rhythm and tone, subterranean element of meaning that doesn’t signify.

Symbolic elements: that which signifies, associated with syntax and grammar.

 

Semiotic gives rise and challenges the symbolic.

Without the symbolic we have only delirium or nature.

Without the semiotic, language would be completely empty, if not impossible. We would have no reason to speak if it were not for the semiotic drive force. So this oscillation and fluctuation between the semiotic and the symbolic is productive and necessary.

Kristeva and Lacan:

 

Kristeva offers an alternative model to Lacan's mirror stage and his order of the Real, the Imaginary and the Symbolic.

 

Lacan's orders:

 

The Real: The state of nature from which we have been forever severed by our entrance into language. There is nothing but need. No separation between self and external world. A state of fullness or completeness that is subsequently lost through the entrance into language. The Real is impossible as we cannot express it in language because the very entrance into language marks our irrevocable separation from the real. Still, the real continues to exert its influence throughout our adult lives since it is the rock against which all our fantasies and linguistic structures ultimately fail.

 

The Imaginary: The fundamental narcissism by which the human subject creates fantasy images of both himself and his ideal object of desire. Tied to the mirror stage. Continues to exert its influence throughout the life of the adult and is not merely superceded in the child's movement into the symbolic order.

 

The symbolic: The social world of linguistic communication, intersubjective relations, knowledge of ideological conventions, and the acceptance of the law. Once a child enters into language and accepts the rules and dictates of society, it is able to deal with others. Aligned with the Oedipus complex, the symbolic is made possible because of your acceptance of the Name-of-the-Father, those laws and restrictions that control both your desire and the rules of communication.

 

Kristeva's alternative:

 

0-6 months of age.  The Chora: Here we are dominated by a chaotic mix of perceptions, feelings, and needs. We have not yet separated from mother or world, taking into all the pleasures experienced without any acknowledgment of boundaries. We are here closest to the pure materiality of existence, or what Lacan terms "the Real," purely dominated by drives.

 

4-8 months of age. Abjection: Separation begins and so do boundaries between self and other to enable entry into language. This stage is a violent, clumsy breaking away, with the constant risk of falling back into the pre-linguistic stage of the chora which means giving up all the linguistic structures by which we order our social world of meaning. This is associated with the maternal since our stepping into language begins our movement away from the chora.

 

6-18 months of age: Lacan's Imaginary order is established to assert its influence on the subject even after the subject enters the next stage of development. Kristeva offers a different spin on Lacan by emphasizing the fact that this stage is preceded and troubled by the subject's relation to the abject.

 

18 months to 4 years of age: At which appears the acquisition of language. Once you entered into the differential system of language, it forever afterwards determined your perception of the world around you, so that the intrusion of the Real's materiality becomes a traumatic event. Kristeva adds to Lacan her sense that language is ultimately a fetish*, an effort to cover over the lack inherent in our relation to death, materiality, and the abject.

 

*Fetishism is the displacement of desire and fantasy onto alternative objects or body parts (eg. a foot fetish or a shoe fetish), in order to obviate a subject's confrontation with the castration complex. Kristeva goes so far as to associate all language with fetishism, seeing the fetish as a life preserver, temporary and slippery, but nonetheless indispensable.

 

Taken with modifications from: http://www.sla.purdue.edu/academic/engl/theory/psychoanalysis/kristevadevelopmain.html

 

    Without the semiotic, language would be completely empty, if not impossible. We would have no reason to speak if it were not for the semiotic drive force. So this oscillation and fluctuation between the semiotic and the symbolic is productive and necessary.