In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Julia Kristeva

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Kristeva and Linguistics
  • Kristeva’s Fiction and Psychoanalysis
  • Kristeva and Literary Studies
  • Kristeva on Psychoanalysis, Philosophy, and Social Justice
  • Auto/Biographical Studies of/on Kristeva
  • Books and Anthologies on Kristeva’s Feminist Thought
  • Articles and Interviews on Kristeva’s Feminist Thought
  • Kristeva and Maternal Discourse
  • Kristeva and Disability Discourse
  • Kristeva and Beyond

Philosophy Julia Kristeva
Anita Singh, Rachana Pandey
  • LAST MODIFIED: 20 February 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0440


Julia Kristeva (b. 24 June 1941) is chiefly known for her work as a theorist, literary critic, semiotician, psychoanalyst, feminist, and creative writer. Her works examine complex issues of language, politics, and philosophy. She was born in Bulgaria and moved to France in 1965. In the 1960s, she became an active member of the Tel Quel group (English translation, “as is” or “as such”), founded by Philippe Sollers, whom Kristeva married in 1967. She was trained in psychoanalysis and earned her degree in 1979. Her training and degree in psychoanalysis in 1979 led her to formulate ideas and theories on a continuum from such disparate thinkers as the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, the French philosopher and sociologist Lucien Goldmann, the French philosopher Michel Foucault, and the Russian philosopher and literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin. She has been regarded as a key exponent of French feminism, along with Simone de Beauvoir, Hélène Cixous, and Luce Irigaray. Among the early interests of structuralism, in addition to Marxism, was the Russian literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin. Her first published works, Semeiotiké: Recherches pour une sémanalyse (1969) and Le Texte du roman (1970), blended and built upon the work of Roland Barthes, Ferdinand de Saussure, and Charles S. Peirce. Kristeva expounded a theoretical framework that would be more fully developed in the text Révolution du langage poétique (1974) (Revolution in poetic language, 1984). Her early interest in the politics of language led to the publication of Semeiotikè (1969) and Révolution du langage poétique (1974). Kristeva received her doctorate in linguistics in 1973 from the École Pratique des Hautes Études (Practical School of Advanced Studies). Her doctoral dissertation, La Révolution du Langage Poétique (1974; partial translation, Revolution in Poetic Language), was acclaimed for employing psychoanalytic theory in language and literature. Her early work, Revolution in Poetic Language (1974), is about the power of revolutionary poetry to yoke the semiotic content of language with the symbolic dimension to produce signification that has the potential to work for political change. Patterns and rhythms bring about a provocative perspective on its representational content, and thereby it has the potential to work for political change. Her work, Revolution in Poetic Language, established her as a major poststructuralist thinker, especially for its explorations of new areas of discourse, the semiotic and the symbolic. The work conceptualized the speaking being as one always subject to the revolutionary power of the affective aspects of language, that is, the semiotic component, which, with the symbolic element, creates signification. Kristeva emphasizes the revolutionary aspect of poetry: that poetry can harness the semiotic content of language—its sounds and rhythms—to bring about a subversive perspective on its symbolic content, thereby having the potential to work for political change. As a leading thinker, critic, semiotician, psychoanalyst, novelist, and feminist, Kristeva’s position is uncontested.

General Overviews

Kristeva is a leading French scholar and critic, and her intellectual journey is remarkable. Angelova 2017 is a documentary about the story of Julia Kristeva, one of the most successful French thinkers. Guberman 1996 is a collection of Kristeva’s interviews on various interdisciplinary subjects. Based on extensive interviews with Kristeva, Jardine 2020 provides the first biography of Kristeva that celebrates her intellectual expedition. Margaroni 2022 is an interesting collection of essays that deals with Kristeva’s modernist concerns as a literary critic. McAfee 2004 provides a general understanding of the contributions made by Kristeva in various fields of knowledge, including language, textuality, feminism, identity, and politics. Midttun 2006 is an interview with Kristeva which provides Kristeva’s insights on abject love and melancholy and deals with her journey from her early career to being established as a prominent thinker of the time. Oliver 1997 is a complete anthology of Kristeva, providing her key writings in one place for the readers.

  • Angelova, Iskra. “Who’s Afraid of Julia Kristeva?” BNT, NDK and Wonderland Productions, 2017.

    Iskra Angelova covers all the significant incidents in the life of Kristeva that influenced her and shaped her persona, including young Kristeva’s encounter with Philippe Sollers in Paris—the leader of the Tel Quel Movement, and her academic works on Claude Lévi-Strauss, Jacques Derrida, Lucien Goldmann, Roland Barthes, and Jacques Lacan.

  • Guberman, Ross Mitchel, ed. Julia Kristeva Interviews. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.

    A collection of twenty-three interviews with Kristeva, many of which are needed to be made available in English translation. Provides Kristeva’s discussions with various thinkers and critics on art, literature, psychology, and other interdisciplinary concerns.

  • Jardine, Alice. At the Risk of Thinking: An Intellectual Biography of Julia Kristeva. Edited by Mari Ruti. New York: Bloomsbury, 2020.

    DOI: 10.5040/9781501341373

    The first biography of Julia Kristeva. Based on the extensive interviews with Kristeva, this biography engages the readers in the remarkable journey of a strong woman who emphasized the need for revival in interdisciplinary thinking to understand and act in the present world.

  • Margaroni, Maria, ed. Understanding Kristeva, Understanding Modernism. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2022.

    As a collection of essays, this book covers the study of Kristeva on avant-garde modernism in the spirit of the late 1960s and, in particular, the contrast and interplay of formal experimentation and subjective crisis with sociopolitical concerns. This volume is divided into three parts. The first part offers the central aspects of Kristeva’s oeuvre. The second part deals with the impact of Kristeva’s critical analysis of modernist concerns and strategies in various fields, including literature, philosophy, and the visual arts. The third part provides a glossary of some of Kristeva’s key terms.

  • McAfee, Noelle. Julia Kristeva. New York: Routledge, 2004.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203634349

    For beginners, this work provides a general understanding of Kristeva’s contribution to various subjects, including language and textuality, subjectivity, feminism and sexuality, politics, identity, and nationality.

  • Midttun, Birgitte Huitfeldt. “Crossing the Borders: An Interview with Julia Kristeva.” Hypatia 21.4 (2006): 164–177.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1527-2001.2006.tb01133.x

    This informative and enlightening interview provides Kristeva’s view on her personal and intellectual journey and insights into ideas such as abjectness, love, and melancholy, among others.

  • Oliver, Kelly, ed. The Portable Kristeva. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.

    A complete anthology of all the key writings of Kristeva developed since the mid-1970s, which makes it quite useful for readers. Covers her contributions to linguistics, literature, culture, philosophy, psychoanalysis, and feminist studies.

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