Julia Kristeva turns her famed critical eye to a study of the human head as symbol and metaphor, as religious object and physical fact, further developing a critical theme in her work-the power of horror-and expanding the potential for the face to provide an experience of the sacred. Kristeva's study stretches far back in time to 6,000 B.C.E. with humans' early decoration and worship of skulls, and follows with an examination of 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 stories of John the Baptist and Salome; tales of the guillotine; modern murder mysteries; and the rhetoric surrounding the fight for and against capital punishment. Drawing numerous connections between these "capital visions" and their experience, Kristeva affirms the possibility of the sacred, even in an era of "faceless" interaction.
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.
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 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 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 The Severed Head considers a remarkable a remarkable range of representations of the severed head in art historical, religious and mythological contexts. TLS