Towards a Feminist Aesthetics of Melancholia: Kristeva, Adorno, and Modern Women Writers

Critical Horizons 11 (3):443 - 461 (2011)
Abstract
Melancholia is a hybrid concept, deployed in feminist and philosophical theories politics and aesthetics, but ‘properly” belonging to neither. This heterogeneity of melancholia as both an aesthetic and a political category allows us to interrogate the interrelationship between gender politics and aesthetics without, however, abolishing their differences. Reinterpreted in the context of a feminist aesthetics, melancholia not only points to art’s origin in the unjust and gendered division of labor and power but also to the ethical and political task of art to bear witness to the mute suffering of women cut off from the signifying possibilities of language. Moving beyond the entrenched oppositions between historicism/subjectivism, subject/object, or formalism /materialism, my own approach to an aesthetics of melancholia in women’s modern novels stresses unpredictable, conflicting migrations of pain between subjects and objects, political oppression and autonomous art, language and affect
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