Outline of Laugh of Medusa

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Outline of the main ideas of Helene Cixous' essay "The Laugh of the Medusa"

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Outline of Laugh of Medusa

  1. 1. I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is:  I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat... ~ Rebecca West
  2. 2. Women must take control of their own speech, and of the symbolic <ul><li>You only have to look at the Medusa straight on to see her. And she’s not deadly. She’s beautiful and she’s laughing. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Women Must Write <ul><li>“ Write! Writing is for you, you are for you; your body is yours, take it” (392) </li></ul>
  4. 4. Women Have Been Repressed <ul><li>And worst of all, men have turned women against themselves (393). </li></ul>
  5. 5. No Writing that “inscribes feminity” <ul><li>Writing is “marked” and has been the locus for the subjugation of women </li></ul><ul><li>However, now, writing allows a space for subversive thought (394) </li></ul>
  6. 6. Rejection of Reason/Passion, Mind/Body Binaries <ul><li>Censor the body and you censor the breath and speech at the same time (395) </li></ul><ul><li>To forge for herself the antilogos weapon (395) </li></ul>
  7. 7. Suspicion of written word as power element <ul><li>Women have difficulty speaking aloud in a group of men, but should break away from the “snare of silence” (395) </li></ul><ul><li>In women, there is not that scission, that division made by the common man between the logic of oral speech and the logic of the text (396). </li></ul><ul><li>Women’s creative power of the body infuses their language. She writes in white ink (396) </li></ul>
  8. 8. Woman as both Universal and Personal <ul><li>In woman, personal history blends together with the history of all women, as well as national and world history (397) </li></ul>
  9. 9. Do not deny a difference <ul><li>Bisexuality, neutrality, denies a difference that exists and works against women. </li></ul>
  10. 10. The Dark Continent is neither dark nor unexplorable (398) <ul><li>Brings elements traditionally associated with female (subconscious, darkness, supernatural) into “mainstream” </li></ul><ul><li>Masculine modes of philosophical and psychological interpretation (sublation) works against women (399) </li></ul>
  11. 11. Flying is woman’s gesture (400) <ul><li>Note that “voler” also means “to steal” </li></ul><ul><li>Metaphor for acquisition of own voice. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Upheaval <ul><li>A feminine text cannot fail to be more than subversive (401) </li></ul><ul><li>Women need to take control of the symbolic – note Cixous’ use of “female” symbols throughout the essay </li></ul>
  13. 13. Above all women must gain control of their own choices. <ul><li>It’s up to you to break the old circuits (403). </li></ul>
  14. 14. General Stylistic/rhetorical Principles <ul><li>Ecriture feminine (never really defines this, but to do so would defy her own strategy) </li></ul><ul><li>“ logos” is phallocentric </li></ul><ul><li>“ circular” “fluid” structure – no structure, because that which is fluid cannot be contained. </li></ul><ul><li>Use throughout of “feminine” symbols and sexual language. </li></ul>

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