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Overviews || Writing and Memory || Recent Interviews || L'écriture féminine

The excerpts and essays within this section are drawn from a small group of the author's texts, comments by scholars who have devoted attention to Cixous in their own research or teaching, and recent interviews. For full texts of many of these works, as well as a selection of other works and secondary studies, see the list of material available on reserve at Meyer Library.


Two representative summaries of the life and work of Hélène Cixous. For a comparative survey of criticism, see also the long essay on Cixous by Barbara Godard in the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Literary Theory: Approaches, Scholars, Terms (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1993).

"Force poétique et rigueur de la pensée"
Elisabeth Mudimbe-Boyi offers an assessment in French that succinctly captures the key elements in the writing and life of Hélène Cixous.

Biography and survey of her work
Vera Andermatt Conley's essay, excerpted from Sartori and Zimmerman's French Women Writers (1991), offers more detailed biographical information and critical commentary derived from her previous studies of Cixous.


"The origin of the gesture of writing is linked to the experience of a disappearance, to the feeling of having lost the key to the world, to have been thrown outside. To have acquired all of a sudden the feeling of something precious, rare, mortal. To have to find again, urgently, an entrance, breath, to keep the trace. We have to make the apprenticeship of Mortality." 1 The following excerpts offer further observations on writing and memory:

"It is the whole that makes sense."
An excerpt from the Preface to The Cixous Reader (1994) where Cixous describes her own work and the way readers interpret it. The essay, in its full form, is one of the author's clearest summaries of how she views the whole of her own work up to the early 1990s.

Albums and legends An excerpt (in French, then English) from Photos de racines (Rootprints) this passage opens the author's meditative text on pictures and memories from her family album. Some of the photographs reproduced with the original full text are included with the excerpt presented here.

How can we finish a book, a dream?
A short excerpt from "The School of Dreams," one of the Wellek Lectures at UC Irvine in 1990, where Cixous explains that "the author is in the book as we are in the dream's boat."


Hélène Cixous has been interviewed so frequently that the records of these dialogues have become a significant part of her self-representation. The following sites on the Web offer two recent examples, one covering general views and the other focused on the theater and contemporary ethical questions.

O'Grady, Kathleen, "Guardian of Language: An Interview with Hélène Cixous (March 1996)"
From Voice of the Shuttle . Cixous explains the undercurrent of political reflection and engagement in all her work and comments on the state of the Centre d'Études Féminines at the University of Paris VIII.

Fort, Bernadette, "Theater, History, Ethics: An Interview with Hélène Cixous on The Perjured City, or the Awakening of the Furies." New Literary History 28.3 (1997) 425-456. Full online text available through subscription to Project Muse.
La vie parjure ou le réveil des Erinyes (1994), on the HIV-tainted blood scandal in France publicized widely from 1988 through the early 1990s, was first performed by the Théâtre du Soleil and was staged in 1997 at Northwestern University. Bernadette Fort uses her close involvement with the staging (and forthcoming translation) of the play to converse with Cixous on writing, history, and the theater.


In the essay "Le rire de la Méduse," (1975) Cixous first explains the invention of a new insurgent writing that will allow women to "transform their history, to seize the occasion to speak." Further on, she challenges her readers: "Écris-toi: il faut que ton corps se fasse entendre. Alors jailliront les immenses ressources de l'inconscient." ("Write yourself. Your body must be heard. Only then will the immense resources of the unconscious spring forth.")

With the publication of this widely quoted essay/manifesto, Hélène Cixous opened lively debate on how women should break the bonds of rhetoric and myth that have kept them from writing and participating in the public sphere. The essay does not stand alone, however, since its sentiments appear frequently in other texts written by Cixous at around the same time and in her later writing even as she broadened her exploration of difference and its effects. To Cixous, the practice of écriture féminine is part of an ongoing concern with exclusion, with the transformation of subjectivity, and the struggle for identity. This section includes quotes from the essay, followed by comments on its impact - as a text and as part of a larger scheme.

"Le rire de la Méduse"
Two short excerpts, one on the difficulty of defining écriture féminine, the other a warning on reductionist signifiers (cf. full text in both French and English on the Reserve List).

L'écriture féminine in critical theory
An excerpt from Chiara Briganti's and Robert Con Davis's essay on Hélène Cixous in the Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism (1994). It places the work of Cixous in theoretical context, discussing the meaning of écriture féminine as well as its associated criticism, noting that Cixous has now gone beyond her original development of this concept.

The place that writes: locating Hélène Cixous in feminist theory
Susan E. Dunn, Stanford Humanities Center, explores the literary and critical context of l'écriture féminine, explaining the ways in which Hélène Cixous develops this concept together with a re-definition of the unconscious and of bisexuality. Stressing the importance of both poetics and politics, the essay shows how Cixous avoids the trap of essentialism in describing a feminine writing that is not determined by biological difference but arises in opposition to the rigid binary structures of patriarchal order.

Hélène Cixous "The Laugh of the Medusa"
Both an introductory lecture and a critical overview, Mary K. Klages (Stanford Ph.D, Modern Thought and Literature, 1989) includes her comments on Cixous in the syllabus for her course on Modern Critical Thought, Fall, 1997 University of Colorado at Boulder.

1 From "De la scène de l'inconscient..." in Hélène Cixous: chemins de l'écriture. (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1990) 14. Trans. by Vera Andermatt Conley in her book Hélène Cixous (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1992).


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