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Sal Renshaw

9780719069604_4_003.qxd 09/01/2009 09:56 AM Page 95 CHAPTER 3 Hélène Cixous’ subject of love True love for the other, religious without any specific denomination, brings about modes of exchange that are outside of any reversal. (Conley on Cixous, 1992: 100) In an interview in 1996 with Hélène Cixous, Kathleen O’Grady broke something of a critical silence regarding the subject of Cixous’ relationship to religion. To the question of her personal relation to God, Cixous describes herself as ‘religiously atheistic’ (O’Grady, 1996–97). The statements that frame

in The subject of love
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Hélène Cixous and the feminine divine
Author: Sal Renshaw

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.

Sal Renshaw

9780719069604_4_005.qxd 09/01/2009 09:57 AM Page 163 CHAPTER 5 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

in The subject of love
Sal Renshaw

the passage of grace. (Cixous, ‘Grace and Innocence’, 1992: 67) 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’, 1992: 67) 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

in The subject of love
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Sal Renshaw

9780719069604_5_end1.qxd 07/01/2009 05:04PM Page 191 Conclusion 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

in The subject of love
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In the spirit of the gift of love
Sal Renshaw

-first is to be marked by a similar ‘not speaking’ that is nothing but speaking, of the supposedly unspeakable – religion in the reign of scientific truth. Against this background of tentative observations about the challenges that religious meaning is facing in postmodernity, the French feminist ‘poeticophilosopher’4 Hélène Cixous’ theorisation of a ‘feminine’5 relation to the gift 4 4 Cixous’ work is notoriously difficult to contain within the conventional categories of the academy. It has variously been described as literary theory, literary criticism, poetry, and

in The subject of love
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Philosophy, theology, and French feminism
Sal Renshaw

is a presumption to speak meaningfully of lover and beloved, the concept of love is necessarily implicated in concerns about subjectivity. For the feminist thinker Hélène Cixous, the sexual politics of how love has traditionally been understood to negotiate a subject/object relation has been a constant preoccupation of her work, which is informed by, and contributes to, contemporary philosophical reflections on difference and subjectivity. Throughout her writing she explores the ways in which different conceptions of love have been implicated in the production of

in The subject of love
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For the love of God
Sal Renshaw

maternal or sacred, about which I will say more later in this chapter, and, to name only example from Hélène Cixous’ work, her perennial return to the trope of Eve, all signal a shared concern with the relationship between 58 A significant debate within feminist theological discourse concerns the referential nature of religious language, and, thus, the issue of ontology. While Ruether’s statement appears to presume a certain ontology of the divine, her work is situated firmly within a tradition that rejects the Enlightenment ideal of correspondence between language and

in The subject of love