“Does European Culture Exist?” Julia Kristeva, a pioneering French linguist and psychoanalyst, will examine the character and identity of European culture in a lecture. Thursday, October 30, 2008

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY—Julia Kristeva, a pioneering psychoanalyst and chair of the linguistics department at the University of Paris VII, will deliver the 2008 Matthew Vassar lecture “Does European Culture Exist?” on Thursday, Oct. 30, in Taylor Hall 102, starting at 5:00 p.m. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Dr. Kristeva will explore the multilingual character of European culture; questions raised by notions of European identity, especially the issue of illegal immigrants; and conflicting models of freedom, “American,” and “European” in the world today.

The philosophy journal Hypatia described Kristiva as “the incarnation of modern intellectual France,” for her groundbreaking work in psychoanalysis and the study of symbols. Her unorthodox theories on the links between words and signs in the 1960s led to later debates in philosophical circles, and she is now regarded as one of the leading language theorists. Vassar professor Giovanna Borradori, who specializes in European philosophy, said Kristeva “is one of the most important woman thinkers in the world right now.”

A classically trained and practicing Freudian psychoanalyst, Kristeva receives patients in her home four afternoons a week between researching, writing, and teaching at the University of Paris. She is also one of France’s most prominent feminists. Borradori noted “Kristeva is a psychoanalyst with a feminist bent; she has provided a feminist critique of the male-centeredness of psychoanalysis, and has related that to philosophy.”

Kristeva was born and raised in Bulgaria and immigrated to France in 1966 after receiving her bachelor’s degree from the University of Sofia. In France, she became acquainted with prominent French intellectuals such as Roland Barthes and wrote articles for academic publications, receiving her linguistics doctorate in 1973 from the School of Higher Education in Social Sciences in Paris.

The author of over 30 books, including academic monologues, biographies, and semi-autobiographical novels, Kristeva said she started writing fiction to discover herself. “Fiction became my search for lost time, and by using a less formal and conceptual language, I tried to reach those parts of my personality that had not previously found expression,” she explained, in an interview with the New York Times.

In 2004, Kristeva won the first Holberg International Memorial Prize—worth over half a million dollars—for her efforts to find links between language, culture and literature. She is the only woman who has won the prize, which honors work in the humanities and social sciences and was established by the Norwegian Parliament in 2003.

In an interview with the Czechoslovak News Agency, Czech philosopher Miroslav Petricek said, “Julia Kristeva uses the theory of novel, literary criticism,  psychoanalysis and philosophy as a guiding principle from which her own thinking is being unwound.”

People with disabilities requiring accommodations should contact the Office of Campus Activities at (845) 437-5370. Directions to the Vassar campus are available at

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Wednesday, October 22, 2008