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‘Mystic Atheism’: Julia Kristeva's Negative Theology

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/01/2008
<mark>Journal</mark>Theology and Sexuality
Issue number3
Number of pages14
Pages (from-to)279-292
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This article examines Julia Kristeva's paradoxical concept of a ‘mystic atheism’. It falls into three parts. First, it briefly surveys Kristeva's psychoanalytic account of Christian theology in Au commencement était l'amour (1985). Secondly, it assesses Kristeva's analysis of the Christian mystical tradition from Teresa of Avila to Angela of Foligno in such works as Le féminin et le sacré (1999) and the three volumes on Le génie féminin (1999-2002). For Kristeva, Christian mysticism represents a key moment in the transition from theology to psychoanalysis: what she locates within the work of the female mystics is a so-called ‘mystic atheism’, that is to say, an affirmation of an other within the subject as opposed to the divine other that supposedly lies outside it. Finally, the article offers some critical comments upon Kristeva's own ‘mystic atheism’: I argue that—like much negative theology—Kristeva's psychoanalysis remains ontotheological in form and that this dimension expresses itself in a problematic tendency to anthropomorphize the other within. In conclusion, I will suggest that Kristeva's ‘mystic atheism’ ultimately remains within the theological tradition it seeks to call into question.

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