Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation (Access Restricted)

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Shaun Gallagher

Committee Member

Deborah Tollefsen

Committee Member

Kas Saghafi


This dissertation explores an overlooked resource in thinking the relationship between narrative and identity: Julia Kristeva's intellectual biographies, the Female Genius Trilogy. I articulate a Kristevian account of narrative by reading the Trilogy, which focuses on the lives and work of the political theorist Hannah Arendt, the psychoanalyst Melanie Klein, an the French literary writer Colette, alongside Kristeva's theoretical works and the texts of thinkers who have influenced her work. By situating the Trilogy within the trajectory of Kristeva's thought, I explain that, through time, Kristeva has shifted her emphasis from revolution through poetic language, in which affective elements in language rupture the law-like structure of language and the symbolic order it constructs, to a conception of intimate revolt -- the questioning and displacement of the past that occurs by searching for the roots of identity -- which brings together time, narration, and poetic language. Kristeva distances herself from feminism as a mass movement in favor of an emphasis on the singularity of each individual, and although her focus in the Trilogy is on the singularity of each of her geniuses, her work illustrates that singularity only develops in affective, co-constructive relationships with others that are established through narration. These relationships entail an affective identification with an other that destabilizes identity, allowing access to the semiotic, affective, associations that underlie words and the unconscious "timeless" in which they are imbedded. By narrating this destabilization, the subject links the semiotic and symbolic aspects of language to linear time, which restabilizes identity and reworks the uncovered associations implicit in words. Because, for Kristeva, the subject is constructed from language through time, these alterations result in a restructuring of the subject's affects and his or her relationship to language and the world it constructs. Kristeva's biographical texts embody the realization of her overarching project because her interpretation of the lives and works of her geniuses draws out her own singularity and is an instance of intimate revolt since she constructs her own thoughts in part through her narration of these lives, making her narrative approach rooted in both theoretical insight and practice.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.