"Was There a Pig in the Poem?":
Ursula Gilt in Conversation with Julia Kristeva

Transcribed by Gerald Porker


“‘If you’re going to turn into a pig, my dear,’ said Alice seriously, ‘I’ll have nothing more to do with you. Mind now.’”

—Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

URSULA1 So, Julia, you think this little piggy poem is funny?
KRISTEVA I didn’t say it was funny. I said that it presented an antinomy which is deeply imbedded in unclaimed psychic structures which are themselves problematic of a time indissociable from space and rhythmed by accidents or. . .
URSULA Well, that sounds pretty funny to me. You know, I said what you said to David2 the other day and he found it pretty funny too. In fact he said you should be made to eat your words someday.
KRISTEVA You probably thought what I was saying was “funny” as you put it, because I was interested in the notion of castration with which this poem deals, and...
URSULA Ha! Did you say castration? Ah, you make me all fire and fat! I shall melt away to the first woman, a rib again, unless. . .
KRISTEVA Urs, you’re drooling on my theory. I said “castration” because, as you can’t help but have noticed, Buchanan, in lines 18 and 20 refers to “natur’” and “cratur’”. Now, as you may recall from Wycherley’s Restorationally sexist and filthy play, The Country Wife, the word “creature” is used to describe Horner’s feigned situation as a eunuch. I am semantically. . .
URSULA You mean the pig ain’t got no. . .
KRISTEVA I am reading the “cratur’” as “creature” and when the final “e” is eliminated, cut off, left. . .
URSULA Jees, the pig ain’t got no bloody b. . . . .
KRISTEVA Let us not be smutty, Ursula.
URSULA How do you know it’s a pig, anyway?
KRISTEVA Castration, as you can see in both Freud and Lacan, implies a radical operation which separates sign and syntax. . .
URSULA I once met a man called piggy
Who had a helleva time with his thiggy,
He took up an axe, and he. . .
KRISTEVA Enough! You asked me over to talk about this poem because of your symposium on écriture feminine. Now, I’ve many other pigs to fry besides this one, and if you’re not going to. . .
URSULA Sorry. But doesn’t Buchanan say in line 7 that we have, here, a “carcase complete”. Now, I do know a thing or two about castration. David and I, just the other day, were talking about Daniel Knockum’s sad state, and, well, he certainly doesn’t have anything like a “carcase complete”. Now, if this little piggy here is, as you say, merely a “cratur’”, a mere. . .
KRISTEVA A mere sign of a pig?
URSULA Yeah, a mere sign of a pig, then the whole poem slips from its firm anchoring, and we’re left with a melange of floating images—“juicy meat”, “snowy lard”, “gent”, “cocker”. . .
KRISTEVA It’s “corker”, not “cocker”.
URSULA What is? What do you mean?
KRISTEVA You said “cocker” instead of “corker”.
URSULA Didn’t!
KRISTEVA Did! Now, when we’ve only, in fact, got the mere sign of a pig in this poem, then we’re really dealing with a sort of dictatorship of parts, a deeply vertiginous crossing of the other.
URSULA The other what?
KRISTEVA Part, of course.
URSULA Part of what?
URSULA David is insisting that the pig is pre-lapsarian in its indifference to figs. In the first stanza, he says, when the pig “cares not a fig” the allusion is to a little known Dürer print in which a pig lies at the feet of Adam and Eve who are wearing fig leaves over their parts. The pig’s own nakedness, and indifference, he says—Jees, David loves to really tear into figs—indicates a capacity to depropriate unselfishly, without appendage, without principal “parts”. He doesn’t give a rat’s ass for propriety!
KRISTEVA Then what does it mean when, in line 16, Buchanan writes “he always keeps doing his duty”?
URSULA How the hell should I know. You’re the one claiming the poor bugger ain’t all there. You’re the one making such a big thing about “natur’” and “cratur’”. You tell me! Besides, this is only David’s idea, and he ate the bloody fig in the first place.
KRISTEVA No, we mustn’t interiorize the central separation of the sociosymbolic contract Buchanan has proposed in her representation of bad cess.
URSULA Of what?
KRISTEVA Bad cess. Line 20. It reads “breathe out bad cess”. The image here of economic life, and the pig’s obvious castration, signifies a post-capitalist context wherein the very sociosymbolic contract between pigs and taxes, between pigs and mortgages (line 28), between pigs and labour (rooting, looting, digging—the references are everywhere), between pigs and an idea of the aesthetic, is ruptured. Twice in the poem, Buchanan reminds us that the pig is “no beauty,” that this particular “natur’” is. . .
URSULA I generally like pigs, actually.
KRISTEVA . . . is denied a flight, symbolic or otherwise, “dans ce ciel de midi”.
URSULA What? Between “cess” and “ciel”, what are you. . .
KRISTEVA It’s from a work by Jean Genet.
URSULA Didn’t he also have a bit of “natur’” problems?
KRISTEVA Precisely. When Genet writes “A midi, sous un ciel pur, la nature entière me proposait une enigme,” then we are at the very heart, semantically, semiotically, idiotically, of the matter.
URSULA Which is?
KRISTEVA This piggy ain’t got no b. . . .
  Who is being smutty now!
KRISTEVA Well, we have to consider that, as Derrida put it, “la glu de l’aléa fait sens”.
URSULA You bet your sweet bippy, Julia! All of this now certainly “fait sens.” Will you be able to present your paper to the symposium on écriture feminine? The Academy would be most grateful. Many of my fellow “Projectors” at Lagodo have been holding Buchanan’s poem up to careful scrutiny, and I’m convinced your exegesis will help us make a unicorn. I’d like you to give your paper after the one we’ve scheduled on a project for extracting sunbeams from cucumbers and its relevance to gender blurring. Following you will be Cark talking about “The Apple at the Fair: ‘les glas de la signification.’”
KRISTEVA It’ll be a pleasure.


  1. Ursula Gilt, a noted specialist in Pigs and Pig Discourse, studied in Bartholomew Fair. Several Government Grunts later, she was awarded a Fellowship in the Academy of Lagado where she serves as the Director of Piggiology and écriture cochon. She has been described by Justice Overdo as “the sow of enormity.” [back]
  2. Not identified. [back]