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
I was finishing a book about Hélène Cixous. There is a time when you’re no longer writing, you’re finishing, it’s the end. But how is it possible, when you regularly wake up, first thing in the morning or middle of the night, with a phrase or image that provides, you believe, a crucial additional portal and you pick up your pen and you’re opening, O pen, another chapter of The Book I Do Not Finish ? Or you go to see, you go to the sea of the screen at your laptop before you’re properly awake, and stumble over some word that throws you overkeyboard anew
? Are you – nobody too? 4
To awake, Shakespeare of the Night: in that conversation with the donkey called ‘Writing Blind’ Cixous says she nights, she says: ‘There is no more genre . I become a thing with pricked-up ears. Night becomes a verb. I night. I write at night. I write: the Night.’ 5 Derrida doesn’t night like this, and yet his writings on Shakespeare are strikingly concerned with what might be called a night Shakespeare, with the night in which Romeo and Juliet speak and exchange vows, the theatre of the night and the night of the name as he
dreaming is the element most receptive to mourning, to haunting, to the spectrality of all spirits and the return of the ghosts … The dream is also a place that is hospitable to the demand for justice and to the most invincible of messianic hopes. 6
You receive the dream like a letter from the beyond. ‘Dreams await us in a country we can’t get tickets to’, remarks Hélène Cixous. 7 She stresses what so few notice, the might of the future in relation to dreaming. They wait for us, they are up ahead. There is no bus or taxi, no passport or
, however, than to the redirection or subversion of the normative patriarchal law to whose hegemony Hélène Cixous famously referred as ‘L’Empire du propre’: an empire of the selfsame ( propre ), but also an empire of the clean ( propre ), signifying patriarchy's imperial recourse to transparency and self-evidence.
Surrealism's promise lay in its capacity for both twisting and sullying such a law, for introducing within its functioning the resistances of deviation, errantry, and opacity.
The philosophic narcissism of Claude Cahun’s essay-poetry
attend to the finegrainedness of language, its textures and intricacies, its opacity; in conveying thought-processes, and we find value in the experience that it affords’.
Equally, philosophers borrow from poetic tradition to condense complex ideas into compelling images; it is simply not the case that philosophy elucidates while poetry obfuscates – modern philosophers such as Gilles Deleuze (1925–95) and Félix Guattari (1930–92) or Hélène Cixous (b. 1937) have shown how poetry enters the discourse of philosophy. In
This is a full-length study of Jeanette Winterson's work as a whole, containing in-depth analyses of her eight novels and cross-references to her minor fictional and non-fictional works. It establishes the formal, thematic and ideological characteristics of the novels, and situates the writer within the general panorama of contemporary British fiction. Earlier critics usually approached Winterson exclusively either as a key lesbian novelist, or as a heavily experimental and ‘arty’ writer, whose works are unnecessarily difficult and meaningless. By contrast, this book provides a comprehensive, ‘vertical’ analysis of the novels. It combines the study of formal issues – such as narrative structure, point of view, perspective and the handling of narrative and story time – with the thematic analysis of character types, recurrent topoi, intertextual and generic allusions, etc., focused from various analytical perspectives: narratology, lesbian and feminist theory (especially Cixous and Kristeva), Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis, Jungian archetypal criticism, Tarot, Hermetic and Kabalistic symbolism, myth criticism, Newtonian and Post-Newtonian Physics, etc. Novels that read superficially, or appear simple and realistic, are revealed as complex linguistic artifacts with a convoluted structure and clogged with intertextual echoes of earlier writers and works. The conclusions show the inseparability of form and meaning (for example, the fact that all the novels have a spiralling structure reflects the depiction of self as fluid and of the world as a multiverse) and place Winterson within the trend of postmodernist British writers with a visionary outlook on art, such as Maureen Duffy, Marina Warner or Peter Ackroyd.