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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 23 | volume IV | October-November, 2001



                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 23October-November, 2001

Politics and Poetics of Hélène Cixous

p. 1
Snežana Žabić

What makes reality fascinating is the imaginary catastrophe that hides behind it.
    – Raymond Federman, Critifiction

If we do our work well, reality will appear even more unstable, complex and disorderly than it does now. In this sense, perhaps Freud was right when he declared that women are the enemies of civilization.
    – Jane Flax, Postmodernism and Gender Relations

L’écriture féminine – The End of Patriarchy?

The notion of writing as liberation is the basis for Hélène Cixous’s concept of l’écriture féminine. The whole concept has political implications, to say the least. Cixous herself comes from the academic/literary feminism of the 70's, as do some other French writers that became part of the “mandatory”, or “classic” women's studies reading list: Monique Wittig, Luce Irigaray, Catherine Clémment, Julia Kristeva. Although they are all strong individuals that do not necessarily share the same politics, poetics and theories, one thing they have in common is that they all clearly express the need to put an end to patriarchy once and for all. That is how these writers sharpened their political edge. Their demand was to destroy patriarchy, not to reform it, ‘soften’ or ‘diminish’ it, or, for that matter, replace it with matriarchy (if matriarchy would be patriarchy in reverse, its opposite, where roles would be switched and nothing else). Their idea was to imagine and create (at least in writing) a world with a completely different kind of economy, human relations, language. It is a life long project is to figure out – how? This is a short commentary on and an interpretation (hopefully, not a simplification) of Cixous's essays: “Sorties”, “The Laugh of the Medusa” and “Coming to Writing”. The complexity of Cixous's vision itself suggests that the task in front of us – to put an end to patriarchy – is anything but easy.
    In Cixous’s writing, we find a word phallocentrism[1], not patriarchy. Phallocentrism is a much wider concept that includes discourses such as philosophy. The critique of phallocentrism does not leave anything out, saying that nothing, not even philosophy, is “above” the social and historical conditions that we live in, but rather everything is either a result or a preconditionn of these conditions. The world of ideas apperas to be both a result and a precondition. In “Sorties”, as in “The Laugh of the Medusa”, Cixous sees the system of phallocentrism as “a machine turning out its Truth”, a machine that functions this way:


1. Cixous ofter refers to Lacan and Freud, therefore the symbolic “phallus”. Additionally, critics (see: Toril Moi) notice that Cixous ows a lot to Derrida, namely his analysis of binary thinking characteristic for logocentrism (Derrida's term), and also his concept of differànce. Cixous often invents neologisms, and phallocentrism is one. Another one is the verb that is translated into English as “to hierarchize” and I use this word my text too.

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