The return of the abject: a psychoanalytic analysis of a selection of William Shakespeare’s plays in the light of Julia Kristeva’s theories of the mind
thesisposted on 22.11.2018, 10:20 by Amir Mahmoudzadeh-Andwari
In order to distinguish essays and pre-prints from academic theses, we have a separate category. These are often much longer text based documents than a paper.
The present research deals with the application of Julia Kristeva s psychoanalytic theories of the mind to a selection of William Shakespeare s plays. Kristeva s key psychoanalytic terms the symbolic, the semiotic and the abject are first elaborated in detail and are then applied to different situations and characters in the plays. The plays discussed in this thesis are A Midsummer Night s Dream, As You Like It and The Taming of the Shrew for the comedy section, Richard II, 1 & 2 Henry IV and Coriolanus for the English and Roman History section, and Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and King Lear for the Tragedy section. The reason for choosing the above plays is that I believe there is a gap of knowledge in this regard and no thorough research on this scale has been conducted up to this time. The intention is to discuss and explicate the moments in which the dramatic heroes undergo some unconscious-driven experiences that can be best explained by Kristeva s post-Freudian psychoanalytic approach. In short, what I am going to show in the present study is the psychoanalytic assumption that Shakespearean characters, forced by internal or external elements, leave the symbolic and take refuge in the semiotic. In such moments, the characters inevitably face the abject which is an archaic memory comprising the elements of enchantment and horror. The abject can be best described as the archaic memories of a distant past when the self had no border and was associated with the semiotic, a subject s harmonious beginning. In its early childhood, to become a subject, an individual breaks its semiotic ties and, by so doing, enters the realm of the symbolic which is associated with grammar and law. The symbolic awards a subject a distinct identity and helps it stay on the route to signification. Kristeva s understanding of the process of individuation is explained by her subject in process , a journey in which a subject always oscillates between the symbolic and the semiotic. The key point in Kristeva s psychoanalytic thought is that the semiotic does not fade away and hovers around a subject s border of identity and remains a constant threat for its symbolic identity. To remain immune from the annihilating forces of the semiotic, a subject has to remain vigilant and protect its borders of identity. My main goal in this thesis is to show that, in some particular situations in the plays, Shakespearean characters fail to remain vigilant and, inevitably, their subjects are exposed to the abject. In other words, in moments of ambition, anger, love or fear, they surrender or take refuge in the semiotic and face the abject. Although Shakespearean plays have previously been approached by Sigmund Freud s (and some other major practitioners ) theories, the application of Kristeva s psychoanalytic theories of the mind gives the opportunity to approach the plays from a new perspective that would otherwise have remained unknown. Thus, the originality of this research lies in its extensive application of Kristeva s theories to the selected Shakespearean plays, theories that, although they derive from those of Freud, have the potential to shed light on those psychoanalytic aspects of the plays that Freud either neglected or left unfinished.
- The Arts, English and Drama
- English and Drama