Julia Kristeva is a postmodern, post-structural philosopher, a radical feminist known for introducing many new terms into Philosophical jargon.
Her first concept is subjectivity. Individuals are people who feel, think and will. Subjectivity is process of semantic signification. Subjectivity is closely linked to the ontological concept of being. Philosophy asks questions like what is being, what it means to be a being. Every individual is subjective.
Next comes Kristeva’s concepts like Semiotic and the Symbolic. The semiotic is a realm where the normal rules of language do not apply. The semiotic overthrows the syntax of language. Examples of the Semiotic can be taken from streams of consciousness narrative, poetry, dance and music. The symbolic realm is one which follows the traditional structure of language. Grammar and rules of the syntax are strictly adhered to. Legalistic, political, linguistic and medicinal texts operate on Symbolic norms. Kristeva distinguishes between two types of texts the Geno text and the Pheno text. The Geno text belongs to the semiotic realm and the pheno text belongs to symbolic realm.
Kristeva says that structuralism is synchronic and post-structuralism is diachronic. A synchronic approach begins from a point of time and does not take into account the history of many periods. A diachronic effort takes into account the meaning of a term from different historical epochs. For example: let’s take into account the meaning of the word temple diachronically. Temple as found in the Biblical Old Testament refers to synagogue or place of worship. Temple found in the New Testament refers to the body of Christ and also we have the saying: ‘your body is the temple of God: so don’t desecrate it’.
Next of Kristeva’s concepts is inter-textuality. Language is interwoven simultaneously from many texts. For example a work of fiction might contain idioms and allusions. Reading too is a process of inter-textuality.
Kristeva makes a foray into the Freudian concept of dreams. Freud described dreams as being one of condensation and displacement. A condensed dream shows many symbolic images that can be interpreted. A displaced dream is a dream where the dreamer wants escape from reality. Let’s illustrate it with examples. In a dream I saw I am making love to my significant other in granddad’s house. This is an example of a condensed dream. An interpretation of it would be, I am doing an act where I am desecrating the sanctity of marriage. The house of my grandfather can mean sanctity. Another example is I am seeing my father constantly in a dream. This is an example of displacement. Do I want to shirk my responsibilities of being a father?
Kristeva also questions the stability of the self. The self has to do a tight-rope-walking act between the Id, Ego and Super Ego. A postmodern interpretation would be deify the ID, glorify the Ego and subvert the Super Ego.
Kristeva has also introduced the concept of abjection. Abjection is a process through which one expels what one dislikes. Examples of abjection are feces, vomit and wee-wee. Kristeva uses the concept of abjection for the Nazi hatred of Jews. Hitler felt abject when he was denied of paternity by his own father. And his father being a Jew, Hitler became a tyrant in decimating them.
Kristeva mentions of three generations of feminism, the first wave, the second wave and the third wave. The first wave feminists wanted to be just like men. The second wave feminists imitated the archetypal role of the lover and the mother. The third wave feminists on the other hand balance themselves between alternating roles of being a wife, mother and worker. For the third wave feminists, feminism is glorified and deified.