Here, then, are Kristeva's variations on a
Lacanian theme. I will here repeat elements from the Lacan
Module on Psychosexual Development, clarifying how Kristeva reworks
elements of each stage:
0-6 months of age. Kristeva refers to this
stage as the
chora. In the earliest stage of development, you were
dominated by a chaotic mix of perceptions, feelings, and needs. You
did not distinguish your own self from that of your mother or even
the world around you. Rather, you spent your time taking into yourself
everything that you experienced as pleasurable without any acknowledgment
of boundaries. This is the stage, then, when you were closest to the
pure materiality of existence, or what Lacan terms "the Real."
At this stage, you were, according to Kristeva, purely dominated by
(both life drives and the
4-8 months of age. Kristeva posits that between
mirror stage occurs a crucial pre-linguistic stage that she associates
with the abject
(see the next module on
the abject). During this time in your development, you began to
establish a separation between yourself and the maternal, thus creating
those boundaries between self and other that must be in place before
the entrance into language: "The abject confronts us, on the
other hand, and this time within our personal archeology, with our
earliest attempts to release the hold of maternal entity
even before ex-isting outside of her, thanks to the autonomy of language.
It is a violent, clumsy breaking away, with the constant risk of falling
back under the sway of a power as securing as it is stifling"
(13). Like the subject's confrontation with death, the threat of falling
back into the pre-linguistic stage of the
chora strikes the subject with fear and horror because it means
giving up all the linguistic structures by which we order our social
world of meaning. Kristeva sees the stage of abjection as "a
precondition of narcissism" (13), which is to say, a precondition
for the narcissism of the
mirror stage, which comes next.
6-18 months of age. This stage, which Lacan
terms the "mirror stage," was a central moment in your development.
The "mirror stage" entails a "libidinal dynamism"
2) caused by the young child's identification with his own image,
what Lacan terms the "Ideal-I"
or "ideal ego." This recognition of the self's image
precedes the entrance into language, after which the subject can understand
the place of that image of the self within a larger social order,
in which the subject must negotiate his or her relationship with others.
is important precisely because it represents to the subject a simplified,
bounded form of the self, as opposed to the turbulent chaotic perceptions,
feelings, and needs felt by the infant. In particular, this creation
of an ideal version of the self gives pre-verbal impetus to the creation
of phantasies in the fully developed subject. It establishes what
Lacan terms the "imaginary
order" and, through the imaginary,
continues to assert its influence on the subject even after the subject
enters the next stage of development. Kristeva offers a different
spin on Lacan by emphasizing the fact that this stage is preceded
and troubled by the subject's relation to the abject: "Abjection
is therefore a kind of narcissistic crisis" (14).
18 months to 4 years of age. The acquisition
of language during this next stage of development further separated
you from a connection to the
Real (from the actual materiality of things). Lacan builds on
such semiotic critics as Ferdinand de Saussure to show how language
is a system that makes sense only within its own internal logic of
differences: the word, "father," only makes sense in terms
of those other terms it is defined with or against (mother, "me,"
law, the social, etc.). Once you entered into the differential system
of language, it forever afterwards determined your perception of the
world around you, so that the intrusion of the
Real's materiality becomes a traumatic event, albeit one that
is quite common since our version of "reality" is built
over the chaos of the
Real (both the materiality outside you and the chaotic impulses
inside you). Kristeva adds to Lacan her sense that language is ultimately
an effort to cover over the lack inherent in our relation to death,
materiality, and the abject: "It is perhaps unavoidable that,
when a subject confronts the factitiousness of object relation, when
he stands at the place of the want that founds it, the fetish becomes
a life preserver, temporary and slippery, but nonetheless indispensable.
but is not exactly language our ultimate and inseparable fetish?"