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khōra


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The pre-linguistic or inchoate point of origin of the subject, for which the womb may stand as a figure, though the pre-biotic soup out of which all life is supposed to have emerged according to evolutionary theory might stand just as well. Paris-based, Bulgarian linguist and psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva adapted the term from Plato's Timaeus, where it means quite simply a receptacle for meaning, to theorize a semiotic network or nonexpressive totality out of which individual words and meanings are produced. It is for her the potentiality for meaning that must pre-exist meaning-making, but it has no meaning itself. It is in this respect neither sensible nor intelligible, although Kristeva insists it is nonetheless regulated and not anarchic as Jacques Derrida charges in his account of the concept. As the potential for meaning, the khōra is also the limit or disruption of meaning. It makes its appearance then wherever meaning-production is pushed to its limits, as in modern and postmodern art and literature. In psychoanalytic terms, the khōra is the realm of the drives, which are pre-symbolic, unrepresentable, yet motivating: they give the subject the energy they need to act.

Further Reading:

J. Derrida On the Name (1995).J. Kristeva Revolution in Poetic Language (1984).

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.


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