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Along with Maria Margaroni and Kelly Oliver, I read Kristeva as continuing Plato’s project of negotiating rather than negating materiality in relation to the immaterial.

Oliver reads Kristeva's chora as an effort to bring the body back into poststructuralism, into the very structure of language. One of the precursors of the Kristevan semiotic, according to Oliver is the flesh of writing.” The semiotic chora is in dialectical relationship with the symbolic, such that the churning sensations, impulses and drives of the body find their disruptive expression in language, and ordered symbolic language finds its origin in the harbor of the maternal body. Before the law and language of the father, the space of the maternal body offers the early stages of what is necessary for human separation and subjectivity. What if, Oliver seems ready to ask, we read in chora a process of phenomenological rather than metaphysical negation?

Kristeva’s chora is, like Plato’s “a materialist economy of the Beginning” and as such it accounts for multiplicity and mess among first things. Word and Will take a seat for a burlesque of the logoi and transcendence consists in pulling components from the chorus. This is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of any show-stopping number: chora "permits Kristeva to displace all transcendental forms of origin (the Word, the divine nous, subjective will), at the same time, forcing us to rethink our assumptions concerning the passivity and chaotic nature of matter”[2] writes Margolis.

It would be a serious mistake to view Kristeva's chora as only an application from philosophy to psychoanalysis. Her reading is faithful to the Timaeus. Only under a post-enlightenment split could Kristeva be deemed to offer an other to philosophy.

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The Matter of Mind


[1] Kelly Oliver, quoting “How Does One Speak to Literature?” 1971 wherein Kristeva uses the ideas of Barthes, including “sublanguage” and the “flesh” of writing. 34.

[2] Maria Margaroni, “The Lost Foundation”: Kristeva’s Semiotic Chora and Its Ambiguous Legacy Hypatia, Winter 2005, 20:1, 78

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