“When China Meets China”: Sinéad Morrissey’s Figurations of the Orient, or the Function of Alterity in Julia Kristeva and Paul Ricoeur
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This article attempts to investigate the potential resonances between Paul Ricoeur’s and Julia Kristeva’s theories of otherness as applied to the study of poetry by the Northern-Irish poet Sinéad Morrissey. In all of her five poetry books she explores various forms of otherness and attempts to sketch them in verse. She confronts alterity in many ways, approaching such subjects as the relationship with the body and children, encounters with foreigners, and coming to terms with what is foreign within us. This article engages primarily with her experiences of China, which she recorded in the long poem “China” from her third collection, The State of Prisons (2005). Firstly, this article tackles the question of the body, which is interpreted on the basis of Morrissey’s “post-mortem” poems. Their reading prepares the ground for further explorations of otherness, which Morrissey locates at the very heart of human subjectivity. In this way, she also manages to establish a poetic framework for an ethical consideration of otherness. By investigating the working of the human psyche, Morrissey seems to go along the lines of Kristeva and Ricoeur, who claim that otherness is inextricably linked with the formation of human subjectivity. Taking a cue from their philosophical enquiries, the article also attempts to establish where Kristeva’s and Ricoeur’s philosophies overlap.