Sunday, May 13, 2018

Short summary: The Laugh of the Medusa / Helene Cixous


In her seminal work "The Laugh of the Medusa" feminist thinker Helene Cixous deals with the topic of feminine writing. Her main point in the article is that women should pursue writing despite attempts to drive them away from the field in the past. She also demonstrates how feminine writing can look like through the text itself.

Cixous holds that women seldom wrote in history since they were denied such a position. If a woman did write it was considered "nonsense". The point in urging women to write is so that they can "write women", women created and written by women and not the by men. Cixous stresses that women should not internalize images projected onto them by men, images that alienated women from a sense of self-worth found in writing. Even when women did write they tended to adopt a male's point of view, and so the history of western writing is deeply phalluscentric .

Cixous argues in "The Laugh of the Medusa" that a woman should write texts and herself in two ways: on a personal and historical level. On the personal level the woman will return to her body to feel comfortable in it. By censoring women's writing the female body was also censored. Writing according to Cixous will give the woman back her assets and pleasures which were bounded and set her free from guilt. On the general-historical level a woman's writing marks her active entrance into history has an agent with initiative.

Cixous also holds that the woman always preserves someone else's potency. The ability a mother has to give love which is not destructive leads her to understand other human beings and especially other women.

As a subject of history the woman has always functioned in several positions. This is why Cixous thinks she has the potential to take apart a unified, hegemonic and organized thinking of history. A woman links all women together, her private history entwined with the national and global one. Cixous wants to break the rules of the game by not defining what feminine writing is, since any theorization of it will fall into the subordination of phalluscentric economy.

Women cannot avoid using men's language according to Cixous, but they should not be driven back by this. If a woman was always the opposite signifier of man, it's time to take a new position within discourse and make the signifier her own. For Cixous any feminine text has to be subversive, the mere act of it. A woman can write from a position that no man can have  



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