Joanna Vecchiarelli Scott

Professor Joanna Vecchiarelli Scott from Eastern Michigan University holds a visiting lecture at the Christina Institute for Women’s Studies on 23rd of November.

Arendt Against Kristeva: Modernist Narrative as Action
(University Main Building, Auditorium IX, at 14.00 -16.00)



Julia Kristeva (2001) famously reads Arendt as a theorist of “narrative rebirth.” I will argue that what Kristeva terms the feminist “genius” of Arendt’s “natality” through narration, as expressed in her classic studies, such as Origins of Revolution, and her journal essays, can more usefully be read as part of a radical genre of writing common in the middle decades of the 20th century--abstract expressionist modernism. Contrary to Kristeva’s reading, Arendt wrote as if a work of literary art could, under the extraordinary circumstances of 20th century events, constitute a “political space.” Her Modernist literary genre was an avant-garde medium of both distanced abstraction and intense, colored prose, a heady mixture of conceptual word play and detailed historical reference, of distanced irony and moral outrage. Hers was a common radical language which she shared and shaped in New York City as one of its very few eminent women practitioners. Kristeva’s angle of vision, therefore, is only partially helpful, and certainly wide of the mark when she argues that Arendt did “not appreciate…the need for revolt that led the avant-gardes…to re-evaluate” the modes of action through expression. If nothing else, Arendt’s unique writerly style as a woman in mid-century America was a direct and intentionally radical response to what she termed, “ the shock of experience.”


Introduction of the guest lecturer:

Professor Joanna Vecchiarelli Scott from Eastern Michigan University is a highly acknowledged political theorist and Europeanist interested in the cross-fertilization of European and American political culture in the 20th century, with a particular focus on Hannah Arendt and her generation of philosophers, social theorists, writers, and artists. Her areas of concentration include feminist theories, the history of political thought, cultural politics and questions of ethnicity and ideology. She is also engaged in research on contemporary reinterpretations of medieval political theories of identity and power. Previously, she has taught at California State University, Long Beach, where she served for three years on the General Education Governing Committee and was elected "Outstanding Teacher" in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Scott published Hannah Arendt: Love and Saint Augustine (with Judith C. Stark, 1996, University of Chicago Press) and is completing a second study on Arendt which explores her emergence as an American political theorist and cultural critic in New York City in the middle decades of the 20th century. Scott's other publications include book chapters, book reviews, and articles in political science journals such as “The Journal of Politics”, “Polity”, “New York Times” and “The American Political Science Review”, as well as in the multidisciplinary venues, “Augustinian Studies”, “New German Critique”, and the “Hannah Arendt Newsletter”, just to mention a few.