From Narcissus to Genius through the Work of Pleshette DeArmitt


  • Marygrace Hemme The University of Memphis



DeArmitt, Narcissism, Kristeva


Through my reading of the section of Pleshette Dearmitt’s book The Right to Narcissism, entitled “Kristeva: the Rebirth of Narcissus,” I illustrate the way in which DeArmitt’s reading of Narcissus is reflected in Julia Kristeva’s conception of genius. DeArmitt describes narcissism as a structure through which subjectivity, language, self-love, and love for the other come about. Narcissism develops through a metaphorical relation of identification with a “loving third” in which the subject-in-formation is transferred to the site of the other, to the place from which he or she is seen and heard through the words of the mother directed at an other. The emerging subject catches the words of others and repeats them. The speech of the other, then, is a model or pattern with which the subject-in-formation identifies repeatedly, and it is through identifying with the third that the forming subject becomes like the other, a speaking subject herself. All love comes from narcissism because it is a repetition of this identification and transference. I connect this account to Kristeva’s Female Genius Trilogy by claiming that these works are love stories since they are based on a repetition of the narcissistic structure on a cultural level in their content and in their form, though for each genius it manifests through a different register. For Hannah Arendt the relation is between the actor and the spectator; for Melanie Klein it is between the analyst and the analysand; and for Colette it is between the writer and the reader. 

Author Biography

Marygrace Hemme, The University of Memphis

Department of Philosophy