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Head CasesJulia Kristeva on Philosophy and Art in Depressed Times$
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Elaine Miller

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231166829

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231166829.001.0001

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Losing our Heads

Losing our Heads

(p.1) Introduction Losing our Heads
Head Cases

Elaine P. Miller

Columbia University Press

This introductory chapter presents Julia Kristeva's interpretation of decapitation in the story of a living woman with a severed head who always wore a red ribbon around her neck to conceal her decapitation from her husband. Kristeva links the figure of decapitation to the separation of the infant from the mother in weaning. Since this separation is enjoined by the Oedipal or paternal law, decapitation also mirrors the Lacanian understanding of castration as an entrance into the universal, where the adoption of the signifier entails a renunciation of jouissance, or the complete commensurability of individual desire to desideratum. In addition, Kristeva argues that a productive use of the imagination, through the aesthetic image or aesthetic activity, can also help the child create a singular “head” or self.

Keywords:   Julia Kristeva, paternal law, mother-child separation, decapitation, jouissance, aesthetic activity

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