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From Preface to The Hélène Cixous Reader

By Hélène Cixous

"It is the whole that makes sense"


People either know or don't know that I have four or five forms of written expression: poetic fiction, chamber theater or theater on a world scale, criticism, essays -- without counting the notebooks I write only to myself and which no one will ever read, where I exercise a different style. No one fragment carries the totality of the message, but each text (which is in itself a whole) has a particular urgency, an individual force, a necessity, and yet each text also has a force which comes to it from all the other texts.

One cannot speak the same type of language or use the same literary form on every occasion or for every scene. I have several French languages. Amongst my languages there is one I prefer, though I shall not say which.

Sometimes I experience reading returning to "the author" I am in the following manner: according to the country of reading, according to the state of cultural dissemination in such a country, in such a language, I am "known," defined, or coded very differently and in a way that is to me unexpected. In France, I am mainly known through my seminars, and most especially through my theatrical works. (My plays have been performed at the Théâtre du Soleil before 150,000 spectators.) Now the theater public may be totally unaware that in other spheres I am the author of things which are not theatrical. Inversely, in the USA, Canada, Japan ... people are unaware that I am an author for the theater, and I am often classed, sometimes even exclusively, in the category of theoreticians. This is how I appear on contemporary scenes as if I were a quarter of myself. Yet it is the whole that makes sense. That which cannot be met on one path, and which I cannot say in one of my languages, I seek to say through another form of expression.

To briefly indicate directions: in my fictional texts I work in a poetic form and in philosophical contents on the mysteries of subjectivity.

Let us talk about this, for the fin-de-siècle period invites such discussion. It seems -- you have heard this as well as I -- that there are fashionable proceedings, especially in the English-speaking world, on the theme of subjectivity. The trend, the code, the "canon," are in themselves trendy tools for thought (I do not mean "modern," for whatever is "code" is already outmoded and ready to fall into disuse). Now the fashionable code, these days, holds subjectivity, which is confused (unwittingly or not) with individualism, in suspicion: there is confusion -- and this is a pity for everyone -- between the infinite domain of the human subject, which is, of course, the primary territory of every artist and every creature blessed with the difficult happiness of being alive, and stupid egotistic, restrictive, exclusive behavior which excludes the other. Whereas subjectivity is the wealth we have in common and by definition, the subject is the non-closed mix of self/s and others; the human subject who, in the Bible for example, calls himself our like. No I without you ever or more precisely no I's without you's. I is always our like. When I explore I -- I take as object of observation a human sample. There is no true art which does not take as its source or root the universal regions of subjectivity.

(...) A subject is at least a thousand people.

From Preface to The Hélène Cixous Reader (New York: Routledge, 1994) xvi. Text translated by Susan Sellers and revised by Hélène Cixous.


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