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Hlne Cixous

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Hlne Cixous (French: [eln siksu]; born 5 June 1937) is a

professor, French feminist writer, poet, playwright, philosopher, Hlne Cixous
literary critic and rhetorician.[1] Cixous is best known for her
article ''The Laugh of the Medusa'', which established her as one
of the mothers of poststructuralist feminist theory. She founded
the first centre of feminist studies at a European university at the
Centre universitaire de Vincennes of the University of Paris
(today's University of Paris VIII).[2]

She holds honorary degrees from Queen's University and the

University of Alberta in Canada; University College Dublin in
Ireland; the University of York and University College London
in the UK; and Georgetown University, Northwestern
University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the
USA. In 2008 she was appointed as A.D. White Professor-at-
Large at Cornell University until June 2014.

Contents Hlne Cixous, Sept. 2011.

1 Life and career Born 5 June 1937
2 Influences on Cixous' writing Oran, French Algeria
2.1 Sigmund Freud
2.2 Jacques Derrida Era Contemporary philosophy
2.3 The Bibliothque nationale de France Region Western philosophy
3 Major works
3.1 The Laugh of the Medusa (1975) School French feminism
4 Bibliography Institutions University of Paris VIII
4.1 Fiction European Graduate School
4.2 Theater Cornell University
4.3 Essays
5 See also Main interests Literary criticism
6 References Influences
7 Further reading
8 External links Influenced

Life and career

Cixous was born in Oran, French Algeria to Jewish parents.[3] She earned her agrgation in English in 1959 and
her Doctorat s lettres in 1968. Her main focus, at this time, was English literature and the works of James Joyce.
In 1968, she published L'Exil de James Joyce ou l'Art du remplacement (The Exile of James Joyce, or the Art of
Displacement) and the following year she published her first novel, Dedans (Inside), a semi-autobiographical work
that won the Prix Mdicis. She is a professor at European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland and the
University of Paris VIII, whose center for women's studies, the first in Europe, she founded.
She has published widely, including twenty-three volumes of poems, six books of essays, five plays, and numerous
influential articles. She published Voiles (Veils) with Jacques Derrida and her work is often considered
deconstructive. In introducing her Wellek Lecture, subsequently published as Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing,
Derrida referred to her as the greatest living writer in his language (French). Cixous wrote a book on Derrida titled
Portrait de Jacques Derrida en jeune saint juif (Portrait of Jacques Derrida as a Young Jewish Saint). Her reading
of Derrida finds additional layers of meaning at a phonemic rather than strictly lexical level.[4] In addition to
Derrida and Joyce, she has written monographs on the work of the Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector, on Maurice
Blanchot, Franz Kafka, Heinrich von Kleist, Michel de Montaigne, Ingeborg Bachmann, Thomas Bernhard, and
the Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva.

Along with Luce Irigaray and Julia Kristeva, Cixous is considered one of the mothers of poststructuralist feminist
theory.[5] In the 1970s, Cixous began writing about the relationship between sexuality and language. Like other
poststructuralist feminist theorists, Cixous believes that our sexuality is directly tied to how we communicate in
society. In 1975, Cixous published her most influential article "Le rire de la mduse" ("The Laugh of the
Medusa")[6] translated and released in English in 1976. She has published over 70 works; her fiction, dramatic
writing and poetry, however, are not often read in English.

Influences on Cixous' writing

Some of the most notable influences on her writings have been Jacques Derrida, Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan
and Arthur Rimbaud.

Sigmund Freud

Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud established the initial theories which would serve as a basis for some of Cixous'
arguments in developmental psychology. Freud's analysis of gender roles and sexual identity concluded with
separate paths for boys and girls through the Oedipus complex, theories of which Cixous was particularly critical.

Jacques Derrida

Contemporaries, lifelong friends, and intellectuals, Jacques Derrida and Cixous both grew up as French Jews in
Algeria and share a "belonging constituted of exclusion and nonbelonging"not Algerian, rejected by France,
their Jewishness concealed or acculturated. In Derrida's family "one never said 'circumcision' but 'baptism,' not
'Bar Mitzvah' but 'communion.'" Judaism cloaked in Catholicism is one example of the undecidability of identity
that influenced the thinker whom Cixous calls a "Jewish Saint."[7] Her book Portrait of Jacques Derrida as a
Young Jewish Saint addresses these matters.

Through deconstruction, Derrida employed the term logocentrism (which was not his coinage). This is the concept
that explains how language relies on a hierarchical system that values the spoken word over the written word in
Western culture. The idea of binary opposition is essential to Cixous' position on language.

Cixous and Luce Irigaray combined Derrida's logocentric idea and Lacan's symbol for desire, creating the term
phallogocentrism. This term focuses on Derrida's social structure of speech and binary opposition as the center of
reference for language, with the phallic being privileged and how women are only defined by what they lack; not
A vs. B, but, rather A vs. A (not-A).

In a dialogue between Derrida and Cixous, Derrida said about Cixous: "Helene's texts are translated across the
world, but they remain untranslatable. We are two French writers who cultivate a strange relationship, or a
strangely familiar relationship with the French language -- at once more translated and more untranslatable than
many a French author. We are more rooted in the French language than those with ancestral roots in this culture
and this land."[8]

The Bibliothque nationale de France

In 2000, a collection in Cixous' name was created at the Bibliothque nationale de France after Cixous donated the
entirety of her manuscripts to date. They then featured in the exhibit "Brouillons d'crivains" held there in 2001.

In 2003, the Bibliothque held the conference "Genses Gnalogies Genres: Autour de l'oeuvre d'Hlne Cixous".
Among the speakers were Mireille Calle-Gruber, Marie Odile Germain, Jacques Derrida, Annie Leclerc, Ariane
Mnouchkine, Ginette Michaud, and Hlne Cixous herself.

Major works
The Laugh of the Medusa (1975)

This text, originally written in French as Le Rire de la Mduse in 1975, was translated into English by Keith and
Paula Cohen in 1976. Cixous is issuing her female readers an ultimatum of sorts: either they can read it and choose
to stay trapped in their own bodies by a language that does not allow them to express themselves, or they can use
their bodies as a way to communicate. Cixous develops a type rhetoric that has the potential to expand on the
purpose of feminist theory as discourse advocating for the rights of women. criture feminine is a style of writing
that falls outside of the discourse of patriarchal systems and therefore allows women to address their needs and
narratives by claiming her identity. This text is situated in a history of feminist rhetoric that separated women in
terms of their gender and women in terms of authorship.[9] The Laugh of the Medusa works to bridge this gap by
placing emphasis on the woman as individual, commanding her to write and use her body as source of power and
inspiration. Cixous uses the term the Logic of Antilove to describe her criticism of the systematic oppression by
patriarchal figures. She defines the Logic of Antilove as the self-hatred women have, they have made for women
an antinarcissism! A naracissim which loves itself only to be loved by what women havent got, this idea
persecutes women by defining them by what misogynistic tradition believes makes the female sex inferior.[10]
Cixous commands women to focus on her self as an individual, particularly her body and write to redefine her
identity in the context of her history and narrative. She believes writing is a tool women must use to advocate for
themselves, in order to acquire the freedom women have historically been denied.

Dense with literary allusions, "The Laugh of the Medusa", is an exhortation to a "feminine mode" of writing; the
phrases "white ink" and "criture fminine" are often cited, referring to this desired new way of writing. The new
way of writing Cixous employs is found in the techniques she uses to construct the text and how she instructs
fellow women to use writing as a means of authority. Cixous is interested in the female body and how it is closely
connected to female authorship. She conveys this message by employing a conversational dialogue in which she
instructs her audience directly. She urges her audience to write using many direct conversational statements such as
Writing is for you, you are for you; your body is yours, take it.[11] Cixous' repetition in her message that women
must write for themselves and claim their bodies bridges the gap between the physicality of the female body and
their authorship. In doing so she challenges the distinctions between theory and practice expanding on the feminist
rhetorical tradition.[12] The Laugh of the Medusa is successful in its creation of a writing style that allows women
to claim authority because it was created on the foundation of the womans claim to herself and her body, therefore
eliminating the oppressive effects of patriarchal control of rhetoric.[13] This text is also a critique of logocentrism
and phallogocentrism, because it de-prioritizes the masculine form of reason traditionally associated with rhetoric,
having much in common with Jacques Derrida's earlier thought.[14] The essay also calls for an acknowledgment of
universal bisexuality or polymorphous perversity, a precursor of queer theory's later emphases, and swiftly rejects
many kinds of essentialism which were still common in Anglo-American feminism at the time.
In homage to French theorists of the feminine, Laughing with Medusa was published by Oxford University Press
in 2006.

Unless otherwise indicated, the city of publication is Paris.

Le Prnom de Dieu, Grasset, 1967.
Dedans, Grasset, 1969.
Le Troisime Corps, Grasset, 1970.
Les Commencements, Grasset, 1970.
Un vrai jardin, L'Herne, 1971.
Neutre, Grasset, 1972.
Tombe, Le Seuil, 1973.
Portrait du Soleil, Denol, 1973.
Rvolutions pour plus d'un Faust, Le Seuil, 1975.
Souffles, Des femmes, 1975.
La, Gallimard, 1976.
Partie, Des femmes, 1976.
Angst, Des femmes, 1977.
Prparatifs de noces au-del de l'abme, Des femmes, 1978.
Vivre l'orange, Des femmes, 1979.
Anank, Des femmes, 1979.
Illa, Des femmes, 1980.
With ou l'Art de l'innocence, Des femmes, 1981.
Limonade tout tait si infini, Des femmes, 1982.
Le Livre de Promethea, Gallimard, 1983.
La Bataille d'Arcachon, Laval, Qubec, 1986.
Manne, Des femmes, 1988.
Jours de l'an, Des femmes, 1990.
L'Ange au secret, Des femmes, 1991.
Dluge, Des femmes, 1992.
Beethoven jamais, ou l'xistence de Dieu, Des femmes, 1993.
La Fiance juive, Des femmes, 1994.
OR. Les lettres de mon pre, Des femmes, 1997.
Voiles (with Jacques Derrida), Galile, 1998.
Osnabrck, Des femmes, 1999.
Les Rveries de la femme sauvage. Scnes primitives, Galile, 2000.
Le Jour o je n'tais pas l, Galile, 2000.
Benjamin Montaigne. Il ne faut pas le dire, Galile, 2001.
Manhattan. Lettres de la prhistoire, Galile, 2002.
Rve je te dis, Galile, 2003.
L'Amour du loup et autres remords, Galile, 2003.
Tours promises, Galile, 2004.
L'amour mme dans la bote aux lettres, Galile, 2005.
Hyperrve, Galile, 2006.
Si prs, Galile, 2007.
Cige : vieilles femmes en fleurs, Galile, 2008.
Philippines : prdelles , Galile, 2009.
ve s'vade : la ruine et la vie, Galile, 2009.
Double Oubli de l'Orang-Outang, Galile, 2010

La Pupulle, Cahiers Renaud-Barrault, Gallimard, 1971.

Portrait de Dora, Des femmes, 1976.
Le Nom d'Oedipe. Chant du corps interdit, Des femmes, 1978.
La Prise de l'cole de Madhuba, Avant-scne du Thtre, 1984.
L'Histoire terrible mais inacheve de Norodom Sihanouk, roi du Cambodge, Thtre du Soleil, 1985.
Thtre, Des femmes, 1986.
L'Indiade, ou l'Inde de leurs rves, Thtre du Soleil, 1987.
On ne part pas, on ne revient pas, Des femmes, 1991.
Les Eumnides d'Eschyle (traduction), Thtre du Soleil, 1992.
L'Histoire (qu'on ne connatra jamais), Des femmes, 1994.
"Voile Noire Voile Blanche / Black Sail White Sail", bilingual, trad. Catherine A.F. MacGillivray, New
Literary History 25, 2 (Spring), Minnesota University Press, 1994.
La Ville parjure ou le Rveil des rinyes, Thtre du Soleil, 1994.
Jokasta, libretto to the opera of Ruth Schnthal, 1997.
Tambours sur la digue, Thtre du Soleil, 1999.
Rouen, la Trentime Nuit de Mai '31, Galile, 2001.
Le Dernier Caravansrail, Thtre du Soleil, 2003.
Les Naufrags du Fol Espoir, Thtre du Soleil, 2010.


L'Exil de James Joyce ou l'Art du remplacement (doctoral thesis), Grasset, 1969.

Prnoms de personne, Le Seuil, 1974.
The Exile of James Joyce or the Art of Replacement (translation by Sally Purcell of L'exil de James Joyce ou
l'Art du remplacement). New York: David Lewis, 1980.
Un K. Incomprhensible : Pierre Goldman, Christian Bourgois, 1975.
La Jeune Ne, with Catherine Clment, 10/18, 1975.
La Venue l'criture, with Madeleine Gagnon and Annie Leclerc, 10/18, 1977.
Entre l'criture, Des femmes, 1986.
L'Heure de Clarice Lispector, Des femmes, 1989.
Photos de racines, with Mireille Calle-Gruber, Des femmes, 1994.
Lettre Zohra Drif, 1998
Portrait de Jacques Derrida en Jeune Saint Juif, Galile, 2001.
Rencontre terrestre, with Frdric-Yves Jeannet, Galile, 2005.
Le Tablier de Simon Hanta, 2005.
Insister. Jacques Derrida, Galile, 2006.
Le Voisin de zro : Sam Beckett, Galile, 2007

See also
List of deconstructionists
Jean-Louis de Rambures, "Comment travaillent les crivains", Paris 1978 (interview with H. Cixous)
Phallic monism


1. "Hlne Cixous" ( Encyclopdia Britannica. Retrieved 2014-01-17.

3. "Hlne Cixous" ( Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved 2014-01-17.
4. Not the same as puns, which play on the varied means of a word or phrase or the homonyms thereof.
5. "How many of these great female thinkers have you heard of?". Daily Post (Liverpool). 11 December 2007. p. 12.
7. "Portrait of Jacques Derrida as a Young Jewish Saint - Description of Cixous's Portrait of Jacques Derrida as a Young
Jewish Saint" (
D). Columbia University Press. Retrieved 4 September 2014.
8. Derrida, Jacques; Hlne Cixous; Aliette Armel; Ashley Thompson (Winter 2006). "From the Word to Life: A Dialogue
between Jacques Derrida and Hlne Cixous". New Literary History: Hlne Cixous: When the Word Is a Stag. 37 (1):
113. JSTOR 20057924 (
9. Jarrat (Winter 1992). "Performing Feminisms, Histories, Rhetoric" (22): 15.
10. Cixous. The Rhetorical Tradition. Bedford/ St. Martins. pp. 15241536.
11. Cixous. The Rhetorical Tradition. Bedford/ St. Martin's. pp. 15241536.
12. Conley. Hlne Cixous: Writing the Feminine. University of Nebraska Press. pp. 111.
13. Buchanan. A Dictionary of Critical Theory. Oxford University Press.
14. Enos. Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition. Garland Pub. pp. 262265.

Further reading
Blyth, Ian; Sellars, Susan (2004). Hlne Cixous : live theory. New York London: Continuum.
ISBN 9780826466808.
Conley, Verena Andermatt (1984). Hlne Cixous: writing the feminine. Lincoln: University of Nebraska
Press. ISBN 9780803214248.
Dawson, Mark; Hanrahan, Mairad; Prenowitz, Eric (July 2013). "Cixous, Derrida, Psychoanalysis" (http://d Paragraph, special issue: Cixous, Derrida, Psychoanalysis. Edinburgh
University Press. 36 (2): 155160. doi:10.3366/para.2013.0085
Garnier, Marie-Dominique; Mas, Joana (2010). Cixous sous X: d'un coup le nom. Saint-Denis: Presses
universitaires de Vincennes. ISBN 9782842922405.
Ives, Kelly (1996). Cixous, Irigaray, Kristeva: the Jouissance of French feminism. Kidderminster: Crescent
Moon. ISBN 9781871846881.
Penrod, Lynn (1996). Hlne Cixous. New York: Twayne Publishers. ISBN 9780805782844.
Puri, Tara (2013), "Cixous and the play of language", in Dillet, Benot; Mackenzie, Iain M.; Porter, Robert,
The Edinburgh companion to poststructuralism, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 270290,
ISBN 9780748653713.
Williams, Linda R.; Wilcox, Helen; McWatters, Keith; Ann, Thompson (1990). The body and the text:
Hlne Cixous: reading and teaching. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 9780312057695.
Wortmann, Simon (2012). The concept of ecriture feminine in Helene Cixous's "The laugh of the Medusa.
Munich: GRIN Verlag GmbH. ISBN 9783656409229.

External links
Avital Ronell, Judith Butler, Hlne Cixous ( on YouTube
approach the notion of affinity through a discussion of "Disruptive Kinship," co-sponsored by Villa Gillet
and the School of Writing at The New School for Public Engagement.
Julie Jaskin: An introduction to Cixous (
Mary Jane Parrine: Stanford Presidential Lectures' Cixous page (
Carola Hilfrich: Hlne Cixous Biography at Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia (htt
Stanford Presidential Lectures and Symposia in the Humanities and Arts (

Retrieved from ""

Categories: 1937 births Living people People from Oran French people of Algerian-Jewish descent
French people of German-Jewish descent Cornell University faculty University of Paris faculty
European Graduate School faculty French literary critics French literary theorists French women writers
French Jews French feminists Jewish feminists Jewish philosophers Jewish writers
Philosophers of sexuality Postmodern feminists Feminist studies scholars Rhetoricians
Continental philosophers Deconstruction French women philosophers Poststructuralists
20th-century French philosophers 21st-century French philosophers 20th-century women writers
21st-century women writers Prix Mdicis winners French philosophers Feminist theorists Women critics
Algerian women writers

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