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The Severed Head: Capital Visions

The Severed Head: Capital Visions

Hardback European Perspectives: A Series in Social Thought and Cultur

By (author) Professor Julia Kristeva, Translated by Professor Jody Gladding

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  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Format: Hardback | 176 pages
  • Dimensions: 147mm x 211mm x 20mm | 386g
  • Publication date: 10 January 2012
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0231157207
  • ISBN 13: 9780231157209
  • Edition statement: New.
  • Sales rank: 331,371

Product description

Informed by a provocative exhibition at the Louvre, The Severed Head unpacks artistic representations of severed heads from the Paleolithic period to the present. Surveying paintings, sculptures, and drawings, Julia Kristeva turns her famed critical eye to a study of the head as symbol and metaphor, as religious object and physical fact, further developing a critical theme in her work the power of horror and the potential for the face to provide an experience of the sacred. Kristeva considers the head as icon, artifact, and locus of thought, seeking a keener understanding of the violence and desire that drives us to sever and in some cases keep such a potent object. Her study stretches all the way back to 6,000 B.C.E., with the humans' early decoration and worship of skulls, and follows the depiction or presence of heads in the Medusa myth; the mandylion of Laon (a holy relic in which the face of a saint appears on a piece of cloth); the biblical story of John the Baptist and his counterpart, Salome; tales of the guillotine; modern murder mysteries; and even in the fight for and against capital punishment. Kristeva interprets these "capital visions" through the lens of psychoanalysis, drawing infinite connections between their manifestation and sacred experience and very much affirming the possibility of the sacred, even in an era of "faceless" interaction.

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Author information

Julia Kristeva is professor of linguistics at the Universite de Paris VII and author of many acclaimed works and novels, including This Incredible Need to Believe, Melanie Klein, Hannah Arendt, Possessions, Time and Sense, New Maladies of the Soul, Strangers to Ourselves, and Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. She is the recipient of the Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought and the Holberg International Memorial Prize. Jody Gladding is a poet who has translated more than twenty works from French.

Review quote

Through her wonder and her doubt Kristeva sets forth a compelling account of the sacred and of the intimate visionary capacity of the human soul. -- Joshua Paetkau The Ecclesial University Blog 2/20/2012 The Severed Head is a reminder that art can be the best teacher, particularly when the topic is an uncomfortable one. -- Patricia Contino New Pages.com 5/1/2012 This beautifully written and richly layered meditation on mortality and representation will undoubtedly appeal to those readers interested in semiotic and psychoanalytically informed readings of art. -- Jonathan Patkowski Library Journal XPress Reviews 5/15/2012 The Severed Head considers a remarkable a remarkable range of representations of the severed head in art historical, religious and mythological contexts. TLS 7/4/14