Keeping it Intimate: A Meditation on the Power of Horror


  • Sara Beardsworth Southern Illinois University Carbondale



Kristeva, art, decapitation, horror, the feminine


The paper is a reading of Julia Kristeva, The Severed Head. It first interprets a dual historical element in Kristeva's text on "capital visions," her selection of exemplars of the artistic representation of severed heads. On the one hand, there are the aesthetic trajectories themselves, from skull art to artistic modernism. On the other hand, there is an implicit history of "horror" in psychoanalysis in this text, going from Freud through Lacan to Kristeva. The paper then indicates the tone of possibility and invitation that inhabits Kristeva’s treatment of horror in capital visions, which suggests that she does not divide aesthetics off from ethics. Finally, I underline the note of humor that enters into the psychoanalytic and aesthetic treatment of horror, once Kristeva has linked it to the feminine.

Author Biography

Sara Beardsworth, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Associate Professor

Department of Philosophy