Apologia pro Semanalyse: Kristeva and Wordsworth’s Maternal Sublime

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Latham, Mary Marley
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Middle Tennessee State University
Julia Kristeva’s critical approach to poetic revolution reclaims hitherto neglected feminine elements of the sublime. Her process of “semanalysis”—which combines semiotics and psychoanalysis—presents a gendered dynamic in psycholinguistics. Semanalysis exposes the artificiality of communication to unsettle any illusion of fundamental order in language. Wordsworth’s Prelude, in its interminable coming-into-being, exposes the speaking subject as constituted fluidly in “spots of time.” Wordsworth’s “speaking subject” feels continuous in time but also dissolute within his universe. Driven by a desire to embody and inscribe his moments, the speaking subject of The Prelude struggles against the limits of language in meaning-making.
The critical approach of semanalysis reveals repressed feminine processes and drives underpinning creative language acts. Such repressed expressions enact a process similar to the sublimation of feminine psycholinguistic tendencies in the Symbolic order. Thus, semanalysis offers an intellectual practice uniquely able to make evident feminine creative constituencies in the Symbolic order even in a masculine-identified speaking subject like Wordsworth’s. Wordsworth’s recurrent “revisitings” of moments of time memorialized in his verse—apparent in the overwhelming accumulation of drafting artifacts that is The Prelude—reveal a poetic subject veiling and counter-veiling his attraction to the maternal sublime under the auspices of an idealized, impossible-to-embody Recluse, a figure—spectrally textual—beckoning the poet with the promise of a position in monumental time.
Julia Kristeva, Semanalysis, Sublime, The Prelude, William Wordsworth