Out of the cradle endlessly rocking : Sylvia Plath as mother-creator in light of Julia Kristeva's theory of subject formation
This introductory chapter aims to briefly address the theoretical approach used in my dissertation, situating Julia Kristeva in relation to Sylvia Plath's work, as well as to place my work among particular psychoanalytic studies of Plath. 'Initiation' further continues by briefly discussing the way primary and secondary data are utilized in the dissertation and developing the rationale behind juxtaposing biographical material (mostly journals and letters) and creative work, life and art. The chapter finishes by giving an overview of the dissertation organization. The purpose of this dissertation is to discuss the notion of motherhood in Sylvia Plath's work in light of Julia Kristeva's theory of subject formation. For Kristeva, as subjects, we are never the absolute masters of our own experiences, but split subjects divided between unconscious and conscious motivations, inhabiting both nature and culture. The subject is not only split, but is also a 'subject in process' ( sujet en proces); s/he is always on trial, tested in a way against his/her various contexts (Revolution in Poetic Language 22,58,233 ). Kristeva is concerned with discourses that call up a crisis in identity and for her the discourse of motherhood is such a discourse. Motherhood is also characterized by an instability as it takes place at the level of the organism, not the subject : 'It happens but I'm not there' ( 'Motherhood According to Giovanni Bellini' 237 ). The maternal body is a place of splitting; it is more of a filter than anything else - a thoroughfare where nature meets culture ( ibid. 238 ). Neither parturition nor the birth itself are final. They are, as it were, beginnings of something other than themselves - the onset of maternity for the woman, the beginning of life for the child (Robbins 138 ).