1937 Oran, Algeria Doctorate in Literature European Graduate School University of Paris VIII Center for Women Studies Poststructuralist Feminist Theory Sexuality and Writing 70 Jacques Derrida , Sigmund Freud , Jacques Lacan and Arthur Rimbaud .
Le Rire De Le Meduse 1975 Translated to English by Keith and Paula Cohen in 1976 The Laugh of the Medusa
“ I shall speak about women's writing: about what it will do. Woman must write her self: must write about women and bring women to writing, from which they have been driven away as violently as from their bodies-for the same reasons, by the same law, with the same fatal goal. Woman must put herself into the text-as into the world and into story-by her own movement.”
Lacan’s Symbolic Order PHALLUS Language is patriarchal
Phallogocentric = Phallocentric – centered around the phallus Logocentric – preference for speech over language
Female Oedipus Complex Clitoris Vagina Attraction to Female Bodies Attraction to Male Bodies Active (masculine) sexuality Passive (feminine) sexuality NORMAL (non-incestuous reproductive heterosexual)
Destroy or deconstruct the phallogocentric system Lacan describes Project new strategies for a new kind of relation between female bodies and language
Men are closer to phallus while women, who, instead of penises, have ‘nothing’, have ‘absence’. Before women can write, they have to discover where their sexual pleasure is located.
L’ecriture Feminine Feminine Writing Possible only in poetry Closer to the unconscious Closer to what has been repressed, which is the female sexuality , the female body.
Censor the body and you censor breath and speech at the same time. Write yourself. Your body must be heard. -- "The Laugh of the Medusa"
2 Levels of L’ecriture Feminine Women must find their own sexuality and find ways to write about that pleasure. When women will write about their own bodies the structure of language will change; as women become active subjects, their position in language will shift.
“ Write, let no one hold you back, let nothing stop you: not man; not the imbecilic capitalist machinery, in which publishing houses are the crafty, obsequious relayers of imperatives handed down by an economy that works against us and off our backs; and not yourself. Smug-faced readers, managing editors, and big bosses don't like the true texts of women-female-sexed tests. That kind scares them.”
<ul><li>Not objective or objectifiable </li></ul><ul><li>Erase the division between speech and text, order and chaos, between sense and nonsense </li></ul><ul><li>Will be an inherently deconstructive language </li></ul><ul><li>Will bring users closer to the union and non-separation </li></ul>
White Ink Convey the idea of a reunion with the maternal body; to a place where there is no lack or separation
<ul><li>Cannot be theorized or enclosed, or understood – which doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. </li></ul><ul><li>It can’t be defined, but it can be ‘conceived’ of by the ‘outlaws’ and those outlaws are women </li></ul>Literal and metaphoric level
Myth of Medusa Myth of woman as black hole or abyss
In Freudian terms, A woman lacks penis (positive, presence) and instead has this scary hole where the penis might disappear and never come back.
… part of the fear of castration, the woman whose hair is writhing with lots of penises. She’s scary not because she has no penis but because she has too many.
Nowhere in these myths is there a depiction of a female of itself, without a reference to the penis! If women could show men their true sexual pleasures, their real bodies through writing, men would understand that female bodies, female sexuality is not about penises at all!
That’s why women should show their sexts! NEOLOGISM Sex + Texts = Sexts The idea of female sexuality as a new form of writing
In the original story, the Medusa was a beautiful woman who held a very positive role. Tragedy fell upon her when she was confronted with endless hardships brought upon by male actions. Medusa was a beautiful woman who was raped, killed and beheaded by various gods. However even in the face of tragedy and disgrace, the Medusa was portrayed as meaningful. Following the moment her head was removed, a Pegasus flew out of her body, representing the birth of beauty.
Just as the Medusa was powerless to fight against the repressive actions forced upon her, so too was she powerless against the continual metamorphosing of the myth which resulted in the more popular Medusa myth commonly known today. In this popular version the Medusa is a monster with hair of a thousand snakes. She is under a curse which causes everything she looks at to turn to stone. Cixous explains that this monstrous image of the Medusa exists only because it has been directly determined by the male gaze.
<ul><li>“ Men have committed the greatest crime against women. Insidiously, violently, they have led them to hate women, to be their own enemies, to mobilize their immense strength against themselves, to be the executants of their virile needs. They have made for women an antinarcissism! A narcissism which loves itself only to be loved for what women haven't got! They have constructed the infamous logic of antilove.” </li></ul>
“ When the “repressed” of their culture and their society returns ,it’s an explosive, utterly destructive, staggering return, with a force never yet unleashed and equal to the most forbidding of the suppressions. For when the Phallic period comes to an end, women will have been either annihilated or borne up to the highest and most violent incandescence.”
<ul><li>“ Too bad for them if they fall apart upon discovering that women aren’t men, or that the mother doesn’t have one? But isn’t this fear convenient for them? Wouldn’t that worst be, isn’t the worst, in truth, that woman aren’t castrated, that they have only to stop listening to the Sirens (for the Sirens were man) for history to change it’s meaning? 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>
Comparison between Woolf & Cixous <ul><li>Virginia Woolf </li></ul><ul><li>Motherhood is a hindrance to writing/creativity </li></ul><ul><li>Critiqued the imperialist nature of patriarchal linguistic structures </li></ul><ul><li>Intimidated by the social taboos of her day </li></ul><ul><li>Helene Cixous </li></ul><ul><li>Motherhood is a major catalyst for writing </li></ul><ul><li>Actively identifies with the colonized & urges women not to identify themselves in relation to men </li></ul><ul><li>Seeks to destroy the prison of sexual impropriety </li></ul>