Skip to main content

Julia Kristeva 'Prelude to an ethics of the feminine' - lecture followed by a conversation with Jacqueline Rose

Venue: Online

Book your place

In this lecture, Julia Kristeva reads Freud’s two late texts on 'Feminine Sexuality' and 'Femininity' in dialogue with Civilisation and its Discontents, and issues a challenge to contemporary psychoanalysis: to take on board more fully and to develop what the founder of psychoanalysis analysed as a 'psychic bisexuality' that is more pronounced in women than in men.

Through her clinical experience as an analyst, Kristeva has uncovered what she calls a 'transformative femininity' which evolves according to the two phases through which a woman’s subjectification travels. The primary Oedipal moment (in which the mother, object of love/hatred, is the same sex as her baby daughter); and the secondary Oedipal moment (which involves first the 'father of individual pre-history who shares the characteristics of both sexes,' 'the maternal father who provides loving recognition'; and then the 'father of the law', the 'oedipal father'). This complex journey exposes 'transformative femininity' to the pitfalls of melancholia, aggressivity and frigidity.  But by the same token, it is no less the site of something that constantly goes beyond itself in an endless process of creative transferability.

Contrary to classical moralism which is failing to grasp the anthropological acceleration happening today, the ethics of psychoanalysis is always a 'suspended ethics,'  which 'neither thinks nor calculates but contents itself with such transformations.' As a result, it becomes the task of psychoanalysis to accompany transformative femininity on its journey, without acting as a prop to its specificity.  In so doing, it reopens the question of the femininity of the man, while letting it be understood that it is heterosexuality that is the problem.

Contact name:

  • Julia Kristeva -

    Julia Kristeva, born in Bulgaria, has worked and lived in France since 1966. A writer and psychoanalyst, she is Emerita professor at Paris University, honorary and founding member of the Paris Psychoanalytic Society, as well as the recipient of numerous honorary doctorates from universities in the United States, Canada and Europe where she regularly teaches. Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour (2020), Commander of the Order of Merit (2011), the first Holberg Laureate in December 2004 (created by the Norwegian government to remedy the absence of human sciences amongst winners of the Nobel Prize), she received the Hannah Arendt Prize in December 2006, and the Václav Havel Prize in 2008.  Julia Kristeva is the author of over thirty books, including:  The Revolution of Poetic Language, Tales of Love,  Powers of Horror (an essay on abjection), Black Sun (depression and melancholia), Proust and the Sense of Time, the trilogy Female Genius: Hannah Arendt, Melanie Klein and Colette, Hatred and Forgiveness, This unbelievable need to believe, Pulsions du temps, Marriage  as a fine art, (with Philippe Sollers), and several novels including The Samourais, Murder in Byzantium, Teresa My Love – an Imagined Life of the Saint of Avila, The Enchanted Clock and most recently in the series `Authors of My Life,’ Dostoyevsky published by Buchet-Chastel, and  Dostoyevski or The Flood of Language (Fayard, October 2021). All her works have been translated into English, and most of them are available in all the major languages of the world.

  • Prof Jacqueline Rose