Cixous cuts
From the axe to giving birth
in Hélène Cixous
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This chapter focuses on Cixous’s Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing, launching off from Kafka’s celebrated remark about the need for books ‘to be the axe for the frozen sea inside us’. It starts, as Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing starts, with the ‘H’ at the beginning of Hélène Cixous’s name, pronounced ‘ash’, i.e. ‘hache’ in French, or axe. It explores the relations between writing and trauma in terms of the notion of signature, elaborating on the view of Jacques Derrida (following Jean Genet) that ‘the signature is a wound and there is no other origin of the work of art’. This in turn leads to a discussion of écriture féminine, bisexuality and, finally, the complex and multiple figurations of ‘giving birth’ in the context of Cixous’s work. Through a discussion of Plato’s Theaetetus and philosophy as ‘maieutics’, the chapter proposes the neologistic portmanteau term maiopic writing, which combines ‘giving birth’ with what Cixous calls ‘writing blind’.

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