Art, Mysticism, and the Other: Kristeva’s Adel and Teresa


  • Elaine P. Miller Miami University



Kristeva, fiction, art, mysticism, other


Kristeva's Teresa My Love concerns the life and thought of a 16th century Spanish mystic, written in the form of a novel.  Yet the theme of another kind of foreigner, equally exotic but this time threatening, pops up unexpectedly and disappears several times during the course of the novel.  At the very beginning of the story, the 21st century narrator, psychoanalyst Sylvia Leclerque, encounters a young woman in a headscarf, whom Kristeva describes as an IT engineer, who speaks out, explaining that "she and her God were one and that the veil was the immovable sign of this 'union,' which she wished to publicize in order to definitively 'fix it' in herself and in the eyes of others." In this paper I ask what difference Kristeva discerns between these two women, a distinction that apparently makes Teresa's immanence simultaneously a transcendence, but transforms a Muslim woman in a headscarf immediately into an imagined suicide bomber.  Despite the problematic aspects of this comparison, we can learn something from them about Kristeva's ideas on mysticism and on art.  Both mysticism and art are products of the death drive, but whereas the suicide bomber and the animal directly and purely pursue death (again, on Kristeva's view) Teresa and Adel remain on its outer edge and merely play with mortality.