Monday, July 23, 2012

The Laugh of the Medusa

   In her Chicago journal entitled The Laugh of the Medusa Helene Cixous urges women to WRITE! She urges women to begin writing and partake in predominately male field. You may be asking yourself, what does this have to do with me? In 2012, there are plenty of female writers who have come into success and fortune due to their writing. J.K. Rowling, amidst others, just happens to be the first that comes to my mind! However, when this journal was first published in 1975 the world of Harry Potter was simply unknown. Cixous isn’t simply urging woman to write, but rather to write in a certain, or uncertain, way. She is not referring altogether to the mundane act of writing itself, but is referring to breaking both traditional boundaries and structure. These structures, she believes, have been a round since the very beginning of writing and were emplaced to maintain phallocentric ideals. Why so much passion and advocacy towards writing? Cixous argues that writing is the “springboard for subversive thought.” The problem with writing is that women draw their stories from history. Unfortunately, this history tells of her own oppression and is based on phallocentric tradition. Cixous urges that we must seize the occasion to speak and, therefore, break this tradition and ancient boundaries. We must write from our point of view and allow the Old woman to make a remarkable transition into the New woman.
(Photo of Helene Cixous)
   Cixous boldly declares that women have been “kept in the dark.” What is this darkness you may ask? I believe this darkness directly refers to enlightenment. Women have been kept in the dark about enlightening themselves. This enlightenment does not strictly address the area of writing, but all forms of academia and knowledge. “Women have been taught that their territory is black. Because you are Africa,” explains Cixous. Dark, because it is an unknown, often simultaneously frightening, realm. Africa, because is an area for men to invade, conquer and colonize. However, men’s greatest crime against women it teaching them to hate other women, to be their own enemy, and to mobilize their immense strength against themselves. Essentially, phallocentic traditions have taught women a specific kind of “anti-narcissism,” or hatred of oneself. Cixous states that all male writing is “marked writing.” This is because they cannot drop their viewpoint, and inherent privileges, as a male. Cixous also states that although “it is impossible to define a feminine practice of writing, it will always surpass the discourse that regulates the phallocentric system.” This is because as women, we hold a certain intersectionality and vantage point that allows us to see the world in a different way than the dominant most. We need to write as ourselves and give other women the confidence to do the same!



  1. Coletta,
    This is a very good summary and analysis of Cixous. Very good work.

    As for J.K. Rowling: I love Harry Potter, I do, but why did a single mother (of a daughter) writer decide to make yet another male protaganist in the arena of children's adventure novels?

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