From “The Feminine and the Sacred,” Kristeva and Clement

The Feminine and the Sacred, trans. by Jane Marie Todd (New York: Columbia, 2001)

An excerpt: Julia Kristeva, letter to Catherine Clement, May 1, 1997 (p. 95).

“Now I can set forth my idea: through these two prototypes of filth (excrement and menses), what is fundamentally warded off is maternal power. Why? Just think of the maternal authority that oversees the training of the sphincters, through archaic frustrations and prohibitions, and forms a first cartography of identity out of our autoerotic baby bodies, well before our identity cards, a cartography composed of zones, orifices, points, and lines, between “proper” and “improper,” to be precise, possible and impossible. A primal cartography of the body I call “semiotic,” which is the precondition for language even though it depends on language, and which suffers and takes pleasure in an other logic, complementary to the logic of linguistic signs imposed and consolidated by paternal laws. The sacred rites founded on filth unquestionably celebrate our difficult – impossible – separation from that authority, the mother. Is it the only form of the sacred that is in complicity with women? Surely not. Does it vanish under the other variations of the sacred? No to that too.”


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