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03 October 2009

MCT: Hélène Cixous

Hélène Cixous turns out to be quite straighforwardly feminist. The real difference is that a lot of her piece in the book, "Sorties", is written in an eliptical, notey, form, and uses a variety of neologisms which the translator (Ann Liddle) tries to replicate, such as hierarchized. It's actually a very good translation, in that it isn't ashamed to use footnotes to point out, for example, a pun on Baudelaire's line Hypocrite lecteur, mon semblable, mon frère.

So there's a kind of playfulness in the writing, which is quite obviously intended as a contrast to more formal writing. We start with this:
WHERE IS SHE?

    Activity/passivity,
    Sun/Moon,
    Culture/Nature,
    Day/Night

    Father/Mother,
    Head/heart,
    Intelligibe/sensitive,
    Logos/Pathos

and there are other slightly strange headings, eg WHAT DOES ONE GIVE?

But what establishes itself is a view that maleness has been valued and associated with other attributes. Cixous looks at the way Freud and Ernest Jones looked at this and suggests they were both limited by assumptions that went deep into their thought. I may be missing something, but it doesn't seem outlandish at all. The feminist criticism of Freud is so well established, that surely everyone knows he got this wrong.

So far, so unrelated to literary theory. Cixous then argues that creation (literary, philosophical ...) is only possible with:
the presence in the intervening subject of an abundance of the other, of the diverse
I'm happy with that conclusion, but I'm not sure it springs necessarily from the foregoing. There's something missing.

Incidentally, looking for background on Cixous, I found this site, which gives some background, but astonishingly - to my feminist-aware mind - uses the term authoress. Tsk.

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