The writings of Julia Kristeva bring together several discourses which are more usually separated, which tends to make her writing difficult to begin to read since she assumes a range of knowledge in her readers that we may not always quite possess. Her career as an academic began in the discipline of linguistics, the systematic study of language. Born in Bulgaria in 1941, she came to consciousness under an intensely politicised system of Communist government, and learned to think politically as a matter of course. She was profoundly influenced in her linguistic research by the thinkers of Eastern Europe (she speaks Russian), in particular the Russian Formalists who argued that literary language is a kind of double agent, a writing which at once advertises content and form. They attempted to analyse the ‘literariness’ of literary languages. On her arrival in France in the mid-sixties, she added to her knowledge of political and linguistic theory by an intense engagement with the psychoanalytic theories of Jacques Lacan. Her work is of particular interest to feminist literary theorists because it touches therefore on all three of the bases of such thinking established by Elaine Showalter, namely oppression, expression and repression.
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