JULIA KRISTEVA for the most part follows the general parameters of Lacan's model of psychosexual development (see the first Lacan module); however, she adds a number of elements that recast the valences of Lacan's terms. In particular, Kristeva offers a more central place for the maternal and the feminine in the subject's psychosexual development. For this reason, she has been particularly influential on feminist psychoanalysts looking for a less sexist and phallocentric model for the subject.

Here, then, are Kristeva's variations on a Lacanian theme. I will here repeat elements from the Lacan Module on Psychosexual Development, clarifying how Kristeva reworks elements of each stage:

0-6 months of age. Kristeva refers to this stage as the chora. In the earliest stage of development, you were dominated by a chaotic mix of perceptions, feelings, and needs. You did not distinguish your own self from that of your mother or even the world around you. Rather, you spent your time taking into yourself everything that you experienced as pleasurable without any acknowledgment of boundaries. This is the stage, then, when you were closest to the pure materiality of existence, or what Lacan terms "the Real." At this stage, you were, according to Kristeva, purely dominated by your drives (both life drives and the death drive).

4-8 months of age. Kristeva posits that between the chora and the mirror stage occurs a crucial pre-linguistic stage that she associates with the abject (see the next module on the abject). During this time in your development, you began to establish a separation between yourself and the maternal, thus creating those boundaries between self and other that must be in place before the entrance into language: "The abject confronts us, on the other hand, and this time within our personal archeology, with our earliest attempts to release the hold of maternal entity even before ex-isting outside of her, thanks to the autonomy of language. It is a violent, clumsy breaking away, with the constant risk of falling back under the sway of a power as securing as it is stifling" (13). Like the subject's confrontation with death, the threat of falling back into the pre-linguistic stage of the chora strikes the subject with fear and horror because it means giving up all the linguistic structures by which we order our social world of meaning. Kristeva sees the stage of abjection as "a precondition of narcissism" (13), which is to say, a precondition for the narcissism of the mirror stage, which comes next.

6-18 months of age. This stage, which Lacan terms the "mirror stage," was a central moment in your development. The "mirror stage" entails a "libidinal dynamism" (Écrits 2) caused by the young child's identification with his own image, what Lacan terms the "Ideal-I" or "ideal ego." This recognition of the self's image precedes the entrance into language, after which the subject can understand the place of that image of the self within a larger social order, in which the subject must negotiate his or her relationship with others. This "Ideal-I" is important precisely because it represents to the subject a simplified, bounded form of the self, as opposed to the turbulent chaotic perceptions, feelings, and needs felt by the infant. In particular, this creation of an ideal version of the self gives pre-verbal impetus to the creation of phantasies in the fully developed subject. It establishes what Lacan terms the "imaginary order" and, through the imaginary, continues 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: "Abjection is therefore a kind of narcissistic crisis" (14).

18 months to 4 years of age. The acquisition of language during this next stage of development further separated you from a connection to the Real (from the actual materiality of things). Lacan builds on such semiotic critics as Ferdinand de Saussure to show how language is a system that makes sense only within its own internal logic of differences: the word, "father," only makes sense in terms of those other terms it is defined with or against (mother, "me," law, the social, etc.). 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, albeit one that is quite common since our version of "reality" is built over the chaos of the Real (both the materiality outside you and the chaotic impulses inside you). 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: "It is perhaps unavoidable that, when a subject confronts the factitiousness of object relation, when he stands at the place of the want that founds it, the fetish becomes a life preserver, temporary and slippery, but nonetheless indispensable. but is not exactly language our ultimate and inseparable fetish?" (37).



Proper Citation of this Page:

Felluga, Dino. "Modules on Kristeva: On Psychosexual Development." Introductory Guide to Critical Theory. Date of last update, which you can find on the home page. Purdue U. Date you accessed the site. <http://www.purdue.edu/guidetotheory/psychoanalysis/kristevadevelop.html>.







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