Timely Revolutions: On the Timelessness of the Unconscious

Fanny Söderbäck


Julia Kristeva’s work on the concept of revolt is marked by a temporal analysis that takes revolt to be a movement of return into the past that makes possible change, rebirth, and an open future. Such temporal revolt is, according to Kristeva, intimate, in that it touches on unconscious psychic structures and operates on the level of thought and creativity. But Kristeva simultaneously inherits Freud’s notion that the unconscious is timeless. How, I ask, can revolt be defined as a temporal movement of return while at the same time being rooted in timelessness? I examine both Freud’s and Kristeva’s discussions of the timelessness of the unconscious and suggest that it needs to be understood not as non-temporal or outside of time, but rather as a temporal structure that challenges traditional philosophical conceptions of time. As such, the timelessness of the unconscious is far from being yet another instantiation of metaphysical presence. Rather, I see it as offering a challenge to both metaphysical presence and linear time, and indeed as making possible the retrospective movement of return that revolt for Kristeva must be.


Kristeva; Freud, Revolt, Time, Timelessness, Repetition, Unconscious

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/jffp.2014.653

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