To the renowned psychoanalyst, philosopher, and linguist Julia Kristeva, Melanie Klein (1882–1960) was the most original innovator, male or female, in the psychoanalytic arena. Klein pioneered psychoanalytic practice with children and made major contributions to our understanding of both psychosis and autism. Along the way, she successfully introduced a new approach to the theory of the unconscious without abandoning the principles set forth by Freud. In her first biography of a fellow psychoanalyst, the prolific Kristeva considers Klein's life and intellectual development, weaving a narrative that covers the history of psychoanalysis and illuminates Kristeva's own life and work.
Kristeva tells the remarkable story of Klein's life: an unhappy wife and mother who underwent analysis, and—without a medical or other advanced degree—became an analyst herself at the age of 40. In examining her work, Kristeva proposes that Klein's “break” with Freud was really an attempt to complete his theory of the unconscious. Kristeva addresses Klein's numerous critics, and, in doing so, bridges the wide gulf between the clinical and theoretical worlds of psychoanalysis.
Klein is celebrated here as the first person to see the mother as the source of not only creativity, but of thought itself, and the first to consider the place of matricide in psychic development. As such, Klein is a seminal figure in the evolution of the provocative ideas about motherhood and the psyche for which Kristeva is most famous. Klein is thus, in a sense, a mother to Kristeva, making this book an account of the development of Kristeva's own thought as well as Klein's.