Helene Cixous

Helene Cixous was another author that we did not have the opportunity to devote very much class discussion time to. And, I must admit, I wasn’t entirely unhappy about that development. I read an essay in a book on feminism by Cixous as research for another class and I had difficulty with it. Her style is very different from what I’m used to reading. While I think that devoting a lot of time to her work might be interesting, the amount of energy that we could have devoted to her in class would not have scratched the surface of how to read her, let alone gain understanding.

The piece by Cixous included in this anthology is from “Sorties,” which, if I’m not mistaken, was the same piece I read before. It begins: “Writing femininity transformation:
And there is a link between the economy of femininity-the open, extravagant subjectivity, that relationship to the other in which the gift doesn’t calculate its influence-and the possibility of love; and a like today between this ’libido of the other’ and writing” (284).
The translation, at least, satisfies my desire that these works by women be translated by other women. It may be that in the French, it would make more sense. Or not. I’m not sure how much French I’ve forgotten, but taking the translation slowly, word by word and phrase by phrase might build in my mind a greater comprehension and appreciation of the text. I certainly think that past projects of translation have afforded such gifts.

But the difficulty I have in understanding is more likely due to the fact that I have been trained to read in a certain way, a way that some would call patriarchal. Our language is structured by those who spoke when it formed. Mainly by men, especially in the written, formalized word. Cixous seeks to find a way of writing the feminine body, finding a new way to speak that does not kowtow to the patriarchal structures we have been given. Do I cringe from this because I do not understand it, because I fear it, or because I am not giving it enough of my time and attention?
Woman must write her body, must make up the unimpeded tongue that bursts partitions, classes, and rhetorics, orders and codes, must inundate, run through, go beyond the discourse with its last reserves, including the one of laughing off the word ‘silence’ that has to be said, the one that, aiming for the impossible, stops dead before the word ‘impossible’ and writes it as ‘end.’ (287)
I read the words before the first comma and I nod, yes, write the body, I can go with that. And then the rest of the sentence tumbles out, comma upon comma, images and emotions tangled and yet coherent. There is much to learn here, or there is nothing to learn, and which depends not on the text but the reader.

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