The Tower and the Chalice: Julia Kristeva and the Story of Santa Barbara

Feminist Theology 10 (29):40-60 (2002)
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Abstract

The critical commentaries that take up the work of Julia Kristeva all too often disregard the 'religious content' that is central to her oeuvre from the 1980s to the present. Topics such as maternity, abjection, love and melancholia have been covered extensively by readers of Kristeva, yet most neglect to forge a connection between Kristevan theory and her religious, primarily Catholic, forays and examples, choosing to view these theologically inspired illustrations as merely incidental to her theory. And those readers who have addressed the religious component of Kristeva's work, most notably feminist commentators, have dismissed it, labelling it with such terms as 'regressive', 'sentimental' and 'nostalgic' or 'troubling'. This paper argues that much of the confusion concerning Kristeva's relationship to feminism and the all too common attacks of essentialism, sexism and conservatism that are made against her, arise directly from the exclusion of her writings on theology and religion. What has ensued in the secondary source material has been a proliferation of false information concerning both Kristeva herself and her theoretical work, and a number of misplaced criticisms have followed. By truncating the religious dimen sion of Kristeva's philosophy, feminist readers have risked misunderstanding the import and scope of her entire project. Through a detailed examination of Kristeva's use of the image of 'Saint Barbara' in her theoretical, fictive and autobiographical works, this essay establishes that there is a direct connection between her core theoretical assertions and her views on religion. 'But we are, I know not how, double within ourselves'. 1

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