This book is about abundant, generous, other-regarding love. In the history of Western ideas of love, such a configuration has been inseparable from our ideas about divinity and the sacred, often reserved only for God and rarely thought of as a human achievement. The book is a substantial engagement with Cixous's philosophies of love, inviting the reader to reflect on the conditions of subjectivity that just might open us to something like a divine love of the other. It follows this thread in this genealogy of abundant love: the thread that connects the subject of love from fifth-century-b.c.e. Greece and Plato, to the twentieth-century protestant theology of agapic love of Anders Nygren, to the late twentieth-century poetico-philosophy of Hélène Cixous.
Hélène Cixous: the very name can be unnerving, at least to Anglophone speakers. The ‘H’ is silent; and then the surname is ‘pronounced “seek-soo” ’, as classroom-minded editors feel driven to say. 1 Cixous’s œuvre in turn is intimidating and immense: she seems to have assimilated everything – she is as much at ease writing about Foucault, Lacan, Deleuze or Derrida, as about Shakespeare, Stendhal, Joyce or Lispector. She has written dozens of works of fiction, criticism, plays and innumerable other texts, as well as given many in-depth interviews
Divine Promethean love
If I get ready to embrace Promethea – and every time it is as if I were embracing the
world, it is simpler and simpler and more and more religious, because from that moment
on rarely does the kiss remain one between the two of us; it is scarcely given before
it calls the whole universe to celebrate, in an infinitesimal and incredible celebration,
genesis fills the air we breathe. (Cixous, 1991a: 52)
Locating Promethea in paradise
Through the engagement with the work of
the passage of grace. (Cixous, ‘Grace and Innocence’,
We all know how much we hold on to what we know or what we think we know.
One has to know how not to possess what one knows. (Cixous, ‘Grace and Innocence’,
The themes of giving and receiving that underpin so much of Cixous’ analysis
of the difference that sexual difference makes in ‘Sorties’ are continued and developed in ‘Grace and Innocence’. However, it is the spirit in which she ended
‘Sorties’, with a disquisition on what we might think of as ‘divine love’, which
provides the framework
event, reading Hélène Cixous reading Jacques Derrida reading each other reading themselves reading us. 2
What is the point? ‘No point in writing’. In a chapter of her Portrait of Jacques Derrida as a Young Jewish Saint entitled ‘Point of Honour/Point Donor [ Point Donneur ]’, with the subtitle ‘In which there is no mourning’, Cixous writes of Derrida:
Now, the fundamental axiom of everything he says everywhere is the divisibility of the point .
Everything he writes, everything he thinks is a protest against the point as indivisible. He
Presenting graceful abundant love
Question of the time of mourning: I do not cry in advance – I do not precede – Feeling
of grace stronger than everything with me – In the combat between joy and mourning.
(Cixous in Cixous and Calle-Gruber, 1997: 98)
With the jointly authored publication of Rootprints: Memory and Life Writing Hélène
Cixous and Mirielle Calle-Gruber have constructed a thoroughly postmodern
textual engagement with the concept of writing the self. This apparently autobiographical
a way of reading Hélène Cixous, and in particular of exploring what she calls ‘writing blind’ (in the extraordinary essay of that title, first published in 1996), I am no doubt doing violence to her work. 4 But I am also finding it funny, already, the sense of a rapport that does away with words, this strange pleasure of losing myself, recognising how thoroughly she has already said everything, starting with the mole, burrowing away, and with laughter, the feelings evoked when she speaks, in the interview entitled ‘ “You race towards that secret, which escapes
Hélène Cixous’s Dream I Tell You ( Rêve je te dis ) is unlike any other book. 1
Is it a book?
It divides. It is a sort of joke-book, a double-booking, doubled up in pain anguish terror dread and in laughter joy gusto happiness. First published in French in 2003, then in English (translated by Beverley Bie Brahic) in 2006, it ‘ began as a joke ’ (7), Cixous says. There are some eighty dreams, jotted or jetted over a number of years (going back to at least 1990) and reproduced in apparently haphazard, non
figure of the side (‘What is a side?’ is perhaps the question of H.C. for Life , though at no point, it seems to me, does he formulate a notion of ‘side thinking’ as such), 16 additionally stimulated and provoked by Ginette Michaud who has already said a good deal on this topic, and with such subtlety and finesse, in her ‘Derrida & Cixous: Between and Beyond, or “what to the letter has happened”.’ 17 Things were coming together in my mind, the looming silhouette of a mighty vision, a network of thoughts, express or late arriving, gleaned from here and there going
. Here begins the dream, and here endeth the dream. But ‘dream in literature’ is not so simple. The frame of reference is trembling or already dissolving. Poe, Shelley, Shakespeare, Brontë – all are wonderfully canny engineers of making poetry or fiction and dream break through or give way to the other. But it is Hélène Cixous who, I want to suggest, provides the richest and most compelling contemporary examples of such engineering work, in both critical and creative respects. The following pages will turn around her writing, in particular the slender but extraordinary