Kristeva’s plumb line, part 3, final part.

From The Feminine and the Sacred (New York: Columbia, 2001).

Excerpt continued from posts below: Julia Kristeva, letter to Catherine Clement. Ars-en-Re, July 15, 1997 (p. 142).

“Let us look a third time at that plumb line. There is something desolate in the modesty of that metal, a nostalgia for light and depth in the tension of that line. Late symbols, as we know, have a nostalgia for earlier religions, of which they collect only eclectic fragments. Nostalgia is the sister of melancholy, it stands side by side with the depression of individuals and the loss of meaning. At this point, I would like to make myself the advocate of that nostalgia and that depression. I say they are indispensable. I say that it is only mourning the old seductions and beliefs of our ancestors, in exhausting their artificial spark in the accounting of a sober meditation, that we can move in the direction of new truths. No, the symbolism of everyday things is not sadly nostalgic. It benefits from that fertile moment of depression, when I assume the loss of the old and undertake a rebirth. But I stand between the two. That moment between the two, that stage of transition, that space of suspension – which the plumb line makes present in its gossamer sobriety – makes me think that the narrative that gives meaning to our daily objects is the very site on which nostalgia turns itself inside out into ‘something to come.’ How so? We dot no know, we will never know perhaps. What is the truth were only that? Not ‘a meaning’ but a ‘tension toward.’ Let us confine ourselves to remaining upright and sound. Let us work toward meaning, but let us leave it… indefinite, always ‘to come.’ In the face of religions and ideologies, I would say that our attention to the sacred is ‘transitory’ (rather than ‘nostalgic’) and that, paradoxically, that transitory quality is its strength. A nondescript but true strength. Like the strength of the mason in the past, equipped with his plumb line, still far from complete, always too far from the finish, but which draws it rectitude and soundness from that nostalgia for the infinite.

It is something of all that that I am trying to introduce into my brief interpretations and comments during the sessions with Agnes. As for Catherine of Siena, was she not thinking of that when she mentioned a ‘true glory’ in opposition to ‘vainglory’? Who knows? She hands over us with her superhuman experience, we who were born after humanism but have, nonetheless, not forgotten the sacred.”


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