All entries for Monday 08 January 2007

January 08, 2007

Kristeva on ‘Paul and Augustine: The Therapeutics of Exile and Pilgrammage’

Paul of Tarsus

Paul the Cosmopolitan

Kristeva opens this section with a quotation from I Corinthians 9:20 . These are words spoken by Paul who Kristeva describes as ‘a polyglot, an untiring traveler [sic] of the eastern Mediterranean’ who transformed the Christian Church ‘into an Ecclesia’ (77). Kristeva explains how, ‘the Ecclesia apposed to the community of citizens in the polis a community that was other: a community of those who were different, of foreigners who transcended nationalities by means of a faith in the body of a risen Christ’ (77). Paul creates a community of foreigners.

Kristeva comments on Paul’s strangeness, particularly in appearance. He was a Roman but his mother tongue was Greek; he trained to be a rabbi under Gamaliel and claimed that Christ spoke to him in Hebrew. For Kristeva, Paul’s birthplace, Tarsus in Greece, represents his cosmopolitanism, because it is a ‘crossroad of the Roman Empire, where Asia Minor and Syria meet’ and ‘a melting pot of Mediterranean traditions under Hellenistic sway’ (78). Similarly Paul’s original disciples were a Levite from Cyprus named Joseph (or Barnabus), and the Hellenistic Mahahen, foster brother of Herod. Kristeva also comments on the more obvious point of Paul’s double naming: Saul or Paul. For Kristeva, this naming represents a sense of familial game-playing (‘A native part with a native name, a Greek part with a Greek name’ (78)) but also allegiance to Quintus Sergius Paulius who converted to Christianity.

There is cosmopolitanism too, according to Kristeva, in Paul’s journeys:
• a first mission covering Cyprus, Pamphylia, Pisidia, Lycaonia, Antioch and Jerusalem;
• a second mission covering Asia Minor, Alexandria, Macedonia, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus and Antioch;
• a third mission covering Galatia, Phrygia, Ephesus, Corinth and Macedonia;
• and a captivity voyage before he is finally executed in Rome.

Who did Paul target on these journeys? Kristeva thinks that it was not only the Jewish diaspora but also marginals such as ‘merchants, sailors or “exiles” ’ (78). Those who accompanied him were:
• Lydia, a former slave;
• a modest shopkeeper: ‘purple-dye merchant’;
• Aquila and Priscilla, Jews who came to Corinth by way of Rome from Asia Minor;
• itinerant doctors such as Luke;
• and women (‘ladies of quality’).

All these companions are ‘marginal people […] who remained bound to their native culture, [but who] nevertheless created among themselves bonds of solidarity, mutually welcoming each other in holy places where, precisely, the foreigner was safe from any affront, while he had as we have seen, only very few rights in the polis’ (79).

Paul began his preaching in Asia Minor, perhaps encouraged by that culture’s mysticism, Kristeva suggests. Next he visited ‘the traditional Greek world’ and later Ephesus which Kristeva describes as ‘a polymorphous city mixing Jewish exorcists with followers of Artemis’ cult’ (79). Kristeva notes that in this city Paul focussed above all on ideas of hospitality and she suggests that Paul ‘inherited the cosmopolitanism specific of late Hellenism, which already offered material and legal conditions more favourable than before to foreigners and their beliefs’ (79). Both Jewish orthodoxy (nationalism) and Roman authority (the polis) were threatened by such an approach, since ‘[t]he Pauline Church was a community of foreigners’ (80). See Ephesians 2:11-13 and Ephesians 2:19-20

Paul then brought a ‘new dimension where the former foreigners found their cohesion at last’ and this was the point of the Pauline Ecclesia which came to mean an ideal community rather than political assembly (80).

The New Alliance

So how did Paul bring foreigners together and how did he offer an alternative to the Greco-Roman system which promised some prosperity for exiles? Kristeva believes that Paul speaks to the ‘psychic distress’ suffered by foreigners and suggests as a solution ‘a journey between two dissociated but unified spheres’ (81). There is also the ‘threefold equation between the risen Christly Body, the Church, and the Eucharist’ which not only challenged gnosticism [heretical Christian movement] and activated; the making of a new man’, but also creates a ‘unity […] in the transition going from the real to the symbolic (and vice versa) a logic that takes hold of and soothes the foreigner’s psychosis’ (81). Kristeva is adamant that ‘the Pauline Church assumed the foreigner’s passion-inspired division, deeming his being torn apart between two worlds to be a split less between two countries than between two psychic domains within his own impossible unity’ (82). Foreigners survive on such divisions. Kristeva sums up this argument and finally notes that John the Evangelist described Jesus Christ as a stranger to the earth who was only unified with his return to God, the father.

More of Kristeva on ‘The Chosen People and the Choice of Foreignness’

Ruth the Moabite

Kristeva turns to the book of Judges, which she describes as chronicling ‘a chaotic moment in Jewish history’ due to the lack of monarchy (69). Yet the story of Ruth is about forgiveness as Kristeva realises in her discussion of the narrative.

The story of Ruth begins before Ruth’s time. It begins when Elimelech abandons Judah to its difficulty and chaos and instead settles in Moab. This is a grievous crime because as Deuteronomy 23:3-9 tells us, the people of Moab did not help the Jews to escape Egypt and so are excommunicated from the covenant. Elimelech dies as do his sons, Mahlon and Chilion, but Elimech’s wife, Naomi, is left along with the two daughter-in-laws, Orpah and finally, Ruth, who is destined to join Jewish royalty.

Kristeva makes a number of points about Ruth’s background and relation to the Jewish people:
• Ruth was a princess of Moab;
• although now some believe that it was only Moab men who were banned from the convenant, it seems likely that when Ruth arrived in Judah, she would have been a stranger, a foreigner;
• the Moab women may not have had to convert to Judaism in order to marry the brothers.
By the end of the story, Orpah has returned home, while Ruth continues to be a foreigner going with her mother-in-law, Naomi, to Bethlehem:

But Ruth replied, “Do not press me to leave you and to turn back from your company, for
wherever you go I will go
wherever you live I will live.
Your people shall be my people
and your God my God.
Wherever you die I will die,
and there I will be buried.
May Yahweh do this thing to me,
and also more,
if even death should come between us. (Ruth 1:16-17)

At this point, Kristeva makes a few points about Ruth’s name:
• it may come from rao (to see);
• the letters ‘signify the dive ready to be sacrificed before the altar, like Ruth entering the divine Covenant’ (71);
• its numerical value is 606, the number of commandments in the Torah;
• and the H in Ruth’s name represents God.
Ultimately Ruth is ‘a redeemer’ and Kristeva relates this to her marriage with Boaz.

This part of the story sees Ruth going out to work in Boaz’s fields (supposedly by chance, which, Kristeva notes, is an alien concept to the Jewish religion and thus she infers that this is a moment where God controls events). The 80 year old (!!) Boaz accepts Ruth into his field and praises her for rejecting her own land for the promise of a ‘perfect reward’. Later, Naomi gives her this advice: ‘Is not Boaz, with whose servant girls you have been, a kinsman of ours? Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. Wash and perfume yourself, and put on your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.’ (Ruth 3:2-4). Ruth does as she says and Boaz is captivated by her kindness at choosing an old man (!). He tries to encourage a relative, Tov, to marry her, but when he refuses her Boaz finally marries Ruth. Ruth’s child was to begin a great line of Jewish kings including Solomon and David.

David is later to lament his foreignness, yet as Kristeva notes ‘the place of foreignness is not exceptional in that chosen lineage’ (74). She notes the case of Lot and his daughters who produce sons through incest: Ammon and Moab, the forefathers of Ruth. There is also the story of Judah and Tamar, in which after Tamar’s husbands death, she chooses her father-in-law, Judah, to procreate with rather than her young brother-in-law. Later an Ammonite, Naamah, would be Solomon’s queen. The point is that ‘[f]oreignness and incest were […] at the foundation of David’s sovereignty’ and Kristeva reads a message about deviancy in these stories. Being God’s chosen people, exiles and foreigners, means that the risk of deviancy and the breaking of rules is immanent. Divine revelation ‘requires a lapse, the acceptance of radical otherness, the recognition of a foreignness that one might have tended at the very first to consider the most degraded’ (75). Ruth’s role is to highlight ‘the fertility of the other’ (75).

¹Assize: a session of a court, a trial or lawsuit held before a travelling judge.

A BAVS Postgraduate Interdisciplinary Conference

This conference looks really interesting…

From House to Home

The University of Warwick, Saturday 3rd March 2007

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Catherine Spooner, the University of Lancaster (author of Fashioning Gothic Bodies,Manchester University Press, 2004)

The aim of this postgraduate conference is to tackle issues concerning representations of houses and homes in Victorian literature and art. Through the panels and discussions we hope to bring to light many of the roots of our twenty-first century cultural assumptions. We envisage that the conference will be of relevance to MA and PhD students working in the field of Victorian studies.

We invite proposals for papers lasting no more than fifteen minutes from post-graduate students on any of the following topics:
• Ideas of the spiritual home.
• Gender and the ideological construction of home. How far is the house a feminised domesticated space? Is the home a safe space for women or an oppressive prison? Male and female domains and the negotiation of gendered space.
• Family dramas and the private self.
• The haunted house and the uncanny: Ghosts, spectres and the domestication of the Victorian Gothic.
• Explorations of interior space: How significant are the cultural representations of certain rooms? For example, the parlour, the bedroom, the staircase, and the dining room.
• Employment in the home: The Victorian governess, seamstress, cook, and servant.
• The relationship between the home and the socio-political sphere. How far is the home a microcosm of wider Victorian society? The home-front: The Victorian ideology of home in relation to the wider British Empire.

Please send abstracts of no more than 200 words to Lizzie Ludlow and Madeleine Wood at
by 10th January 2007.

For a booking form and further details please visit our website:

Kristeva on ‘The Chosen People and the Choice of Foreignness’

Foreigner or Convert

Kristeva considers the labelling of Jewish people as God’s chosen people as they become exiles and she sees in it ‘an inherent inscription of foreignness’ (65). While the Jewish people are chosen, others are excluded. Kristeva cites examples of:
• the exclusion of others: Genesis 17:7 ;
• the rejecting of others: I Samuel 15:2-3 and Nehemiah 10:31 ;
• and acceptance of certain kinds of foreigners: Deuteronomy 23:3-9 .

With these examples in mind, Kristeva considers the Jewish people’s relation to exclusivity:

Exclusive as it may be, and while basing that exclusiveness on the moral misdeed of those who are despised, the Jewish people’s covenant with God is an outgrowth not of favoritism [sic] but of choice founded on ordeal; this implies that, constantly threatened, the covenant is always to be conquered and its object is always the continuous improvement of the chosen. (66)

Through choosing the Torah, Jewish people universally gain access to God, since ‘whoever obeys the Torah, even a pagan, is equal to the highest priest’ (66). Similarly, there is universalism in the command to love thy neighbour (paraphrasing Leviticus 18.5). Interestingly, Kristeva notes that often the religious texts of the Jewish people command respect for foreigners:
Exodus 22:21 ;
• and Baba Mezia 58b: ‘If a convert comes to learn the Torah do not say to him, the mouth that has eaten impure animals, worms, and reptiles, would like to learn the Torah that has been given to us by God’.

Kristeva identifies an anxiety over whether the Jews as exiles will treat other exiles well or badly. Although they have been other to the Egyptians, this does not ensure an understanding of other foreigners and rules have to be laid down.

God alone watches over all foreigners, and the remainder of the stay in Egypt indices the greater humility into “the chosen people” who might thus view themselves as having once been part of an inferior group. Justice rather than mercy seems to rise from that verse. (67)

Kristeva cites a number of passages to support her point including:
Leviticus 19:33-34 ;
Deuteronomy 10:19 ;
• and Genesis 12:1 .

Abraham experiences his religious revelation through exile leaving behind ‘his country […], his fatherland and his father’s house, and all the other peoples of the world’ (67-68). Kristeva also notes ‘the universalism of the prophets’ who believe ‘that all mankind is respectable in its intrinsic dignity’ (68). Kristeva now quotes a wonderful passage from Job 31:13-15 and 32:

If I have infringed the rights of slave
or maidservant in legal actions against me—
what shall I do when God stands up?
What shall I say when he holds his assize¹?
They, no less than I, were created in the womb
by the one same God who shaped us within our mothers.
[…] No stranger ever had to sleep outside,
my door was always open to the traveller.

Kristeva notes that the Hebrew term for stranger is ger and though it literally signifies ‘the one who has come to live with’ or ‘resident’, it can also mean ‘convert’. It can mean ‘proselyte’ or ‘stranger’ and there can also be gertochav (resident foreigner) or ger (someone subject to conversion or naturalisation).

However, some Jewish texts are more suspicious of converts. Kristeva quotes Rabbi Helbo who speaks of converts in metaphors of disease (Yebamoth 47b). Yet Kristeva sees this as an individual’s idiosyncrasy and sees welcome to converts as an integral part of the Jewish religion. Most importantly there is the prospect of reward for proselytes. Ultimately though, Kristeva is aware that Judaism has the same problems as Stoicism and Christianity in trying to integrate strangers.

More of Kristeva on 'The Greeks Among Barbarians, Suppliants and Metics'

Hellenistic Cosmopolitanism

Kristeva now considers the proliferation of pan-Hellenic ideas, which emerged via representatives such as Herodotus of Halicarnassus and Hippodamus of Miletus. Both of these men were refugees and both part in project set up by Pericles to create a community of representatives for different colonies of Greece. Kristeva describes a curiosity concerning foreigners inherent in Hellenist culture and she directs the reader to the following quotations:

The only homeland, foreigner, is the world we live in; a single Chaos has given birth to all mortals. —Meleager of Gadara

I am a man, and nothing human is foreign to me. —Menander (trans. Terence).

Kristeva traces such attitudes back to Stoicism and its ‘ethics, which was based on individual judgement’ (57). The desire was that ‘the city-state might embrace the far limits of the world’ (57).

Zeno of Citium

Stoic Conciliation: Universalism…

Kristeva cites the founders of Stoicism (Zeno of Citium and Chrysippus) as believing ‘that every living being was supported by the principle called oikeiosis, a complex notion that might be translated as “conciliation” ’(57). For Kristeva, oikeiosis also conveys ‘the permanent taking hold of oneself, a kind of “inner touch,” of vital dynamic that puts the subject in agreement with himself’ (57). See note on Stoicism:

Kristeva describes Stoic conciliation as an agent that ‘binds us not only to ourselves but also to the concentric spheres that would represent the arrangement of our fellow men—starting with close relatives and ending up with the whole of mankind, according to Hierocles’ theory; in reverse, by tightening circles we succeed in absorbing all men, of whatever race or blood, into ourselves’ (57). The result is a kind of ‘tolerant cosmopolitanism’ in which ‘distinctions fade between Greeks and barbarians, free men and slaves, but also between men and women, since all are endowed with a longing for the same virtue’ (58).

Unfortunately, Stoicism did not prevail and Kristeva believes that this occurs because ‘an elitism of the reasonable wise man was unfurled’ imbued with pride, resisting laws and talking unintelligibly. Foreignness came to have an association now also with blindness. Stoicism did not live up to its principles, but rather homogenised others via the application of reason: ‘the one not amenable to it falling into the category of the insane’ (59). Stoicism became an autarchy, a system of government by one person with absolute power.

…and Perversion

Kristeva sees a flaw in the cosmopolitanism discussed: that is ‘a cynical stamp’ which apparently appears in Zeno’s Republic as an embracing of pure logos(60).

No more distinct States nor peoples, but a single law ruling the human flock, happy in its pasture. Love prevails over men and women who freely belong to one another, dressed in the same manner, having abolished marriage, schools, courts, money, and even temples—only the inner god of the Spirit was revered. Cannibalism, incest, prostitution, pederasty [sexual intercourse between a man and a boy], and of course the destruction of the family are also accepted among the features of that ideal State. One feels that cosmopolitanism emerges from the core of a global movement that makes a clean sweep of laws, differences, and prohibitions; and that by defying the polis and its jurisdiction one implicitly challenges the founding prohibitions of established society and perhaps of sociality itself; that be abolishing state-controlled borders one assumes, logically and beforehand, an overstepping of the prohibitions that guarantee sexual, individual, and familial identity. (60)

For Kristeva, such a situation defies human association itself and she wonders whether it is ‘possible to live without constraints’ (60). Kristeva replies that there are two possible routes in such a scenario: to become a cynic and hedonist or to adopt ‘the elitism of lucid, self controlled beings, of wise men who manage to be reconciled with the insane’ (61). The second route is of course that of Stoicism and Kristeva relates it to philosophers of the Enlightenment, ‘rights of man’ activists and Marxist International cosmopolitanism. On the one hand, such movements represent universalism and cosmopolitan conciliation, yet on the other hand, they lean towards ‘arbitrariness, terror, and totalitarianism’ (61).

Kristeva is ambivalent about cosmopolitanism and she wonders whether a city can ever really become a model of the world. However, she admits that in Hellenistic Greece, a policy of cosmopolitanism was activated, as foreigners to the polis became for integrated in comparison to foreigners to the Greek nation.

A Definition of Stoicism

A unified logical, physical, and moral philosophy, taking its name from the stoa poikile or painted porch in Athens where Stoic doctrine was taught. The first recognized Stoic was Zeno of Citium, who founded the school c. 300 BC. Other early Stoics were Cleanthes of Assos and Chrysippus of Soli. The middle stoa, whose members included Panaetius of Rhodes and Posidonius of Apamea (c. 135–c. 51 BC), was responsible for introducing Stoicism to the Roman world, where it had a lasting effect. The late stoa was Roman, and its most distinguished members included Epictetus and Seneca. As a professed system Stoicism fought running battles especially with the sceptical philosophers of the Academy.

Stoic epistemology was based on the phantasia kataleptik or apprehensive perception. A perception has to fill certain conditions in order to be veridical (ie. truthful or accurate), and these conditions (clarity, common consent, probability, system) were variously attacked by sceptical opponents. The cosmology of the Stoics was firmly deterministic and orderly, as the eternal course of things passes through returning creative cycles (see eternal return), in accordance with the creative principle or logos spermatikos. Stoic proofs of the existence of God centred on versions of the argument to design (hence the name Cleanthes in Hume’s Dialogues concerning Natural Religion).

The capstone of Stoic philosophy was an ethic of the consolations of identification with the impartial, inevitable, moral order of the universe. It is an ethic of self-sufficient, benevolent calm, with the virtuous peace of the wise man rendering him indifferent to poverty, pain, and death, so resembling the spiritual peace of God. This fortitude and indifference can sound sublime, but also sound like stark insensibility. As Adam Smith objects, ‘By Nature the events which immediately affect that little department in which we ourselves have some little management and direction…are the events which interest us the most, and which chiefly excite our desires and aversions, our hopes and fears, our joys and sorrows’ (Theory of the Moral Sentiments, vii. 2. 1). By being above all that, the Stoic is also less than human, and the pursuit of Stoical indifference becomes a celebration of apathy (see also agent centred morality). However, the generally individualistic cast of Greek ethics is tempered in Stoicism by the need to recognize the creative spark in each individual, giving the Stoic a duty to promote a political and civil order that mirrors the order of the created cosmos.

Job Vacancy

Company: Shakespeare Centre Library
Job Title: Term Time Work Experience
Type: Voluntary Work
Closing Date: 31-Jan-2007

Ideally this position will be for the whole of the spring term – one day per week for the 10 weeks.The project entails working with the archives of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the holdings of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Library.The objective of the project is to create a useable resource on a production, which demonstrates what is held in the collection and also promotes the library. This resource could then be used by readers in the library, school groups and those who view the web pages.The successful student will work on one production at a time.

For complete information, see


University of Warwick, Friday 15th and Saturday 16th June 2007

Confirmed Plenary Speakers: Mary Eagleton and Ali Smith

Call for Papers

This postgraduate conference invites proposals for papers that seek to interrogate the term ‘contemporary women’s writing’ and its usefulness to young scholars working in this field: is the classification ‘dead’ or ‘alive’? The conference follows the success of the inaugural Contemporary Women’s Writing Network (CWWN) conference held in Bangor, April 2006. We aim to provide a platform for the exchange of postgraduate research interests in this area and wish to encourage wide-ranging discussion on the reading, writing, teaching and studying of all aspects of contemporary women’s writing.

Suggested topics include (but are not limited to) the relationship between contemporary women’s writing and:
  • the contemporary canon
  • feminist poetics / theory / practice
  • genre
  • identity/ies (eg. race, class, sexuality, gender)
  • transculturalism and/or transnationalism
  • translation
  • writing the body
  • the tyranny of the novel and the devaluing of other forms
  • alternatives to the book (eg. magazines, pamphlets, hypertext fiction, blogs)
  • the celebrity writer
  • creativity / creative writing

We define ‘contemporary women’s writing’ in the broadest sense and actively encourage submissions on a range of texts and media.

Proposals for papers (250 words) of no longer than twenty minutes in length should be sent by e-mail to: by March 15th 2007


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