This book provides a lucid, wide-ranging and up-to-date critical introduction to the writings of Hélène Cixous (1937–). Cixous is often considered ‘difficult’. Moreover she is extraordinarily prolific, having published dozens of books, essays, plays and other texts. Royle avoids any pretence of a comprehensive survey, instead offering a rich and diverse sampling. At once expository and playful, original and funny, this micrological approach enables a new critical understanding and appreciation of Cixous’s writing. If there is complexity in her work, Royle suggests, there is also uncanny simplicity and great pleasure. The book focuses on key motifs such as dreams, the supernatural, literature, psychoanalysis, creative writing, realism, sexual differences, laughter, secrets, the ‘Mother unconscious’, drawing, painting, autobiography as ‘double life writing’, unidentifiable literary objects (ULOs), telephones, non-human animals, telepathy and the ‘art of cutting’. Particular stress is given to Cixous’s work in relation to Sigmund Freud and Jacques Derrida, as well as to her importance in the context of ‘English literature’. There are close readings of Shakespeare, Emily Brontë, P. B. Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Lewis Carroll, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, for example, alongside in-depth explorations of her own writings, from Inside (1969) and ‘The Laugh of the Medusa’ (1975) up to the present. Royle’s book will be of particular interest to students and academics coming to Cixous’s work for the first time, but it will also appeal to readers interested in contemporary literature, creative writing, life writing, narrative theory, deconstruction, psychoanalysis, feminism, queer theory, ecology, drawing and painting.
Derrida, Lacan and
Derrida discussed Lacan’s
reading of ‘The Purloined Letter’ in the essay ‘Le
Facteur de la Vérité’ (Derrida, 1987: 413–96). He
accuses Lacan of framing Poe’s story to produce his own meaning:
by omitting from his triangular structure the fourth voice which
narrates, and which has another vision from the ones already discussed
enchantment and enchancement, fate and (in Freud’s phrase) ‘a kind of magic’, perhaps, and above all the fairy or demon of literary fiction . 1 As Derrida comments, with respect to the fort-da movement of Beyond the Pleasure Principle : ‘ “literary fiction” … already watches over, like a fairy or demon [ comme une fée ou un demon ], the structure of the fort:da , its scene of writing or of inheritance in dissemination’. 2 It watches over everything, it watches, it wakes, to awake: fairyground analysis. They’re not interested in resting inter or transitioning, in
culture is in the process of being undermined by millions of a species of mole never recognised before. [ Or nous vivons justement cette époque où l’assise conceptuelle d’une culture millénaire est en train d’être sapée par des millions d’une espèce de taupe encore jamais reconnue. ] 6 In the process of being undermined: en train , as she says in French. Like Derrida, I find she was there already, as in an experience of déjà vu , beside oneself, seeing double in the mental field, diplopia underwater, I’m still trying to catch or hold my breath, unclear whether she
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
pas] . I never shall. They know too much ’ (2/12). Cixous tells us she knows and the dreams know, but we do not, we never shall. She does not, or says she does not, give them away, liberate them, bring them to book.
In ‘Fichus’, a text delivered in Frankfurt on the occasion of receiving the Adorno Prize on 22 September 2001, Jacques Derrida asks:
What’s the difference between dreaming and thinking you’re dreaming? And first of all who has the right to ask that question? The dreamer deep in the experience of his night or the dreamer when he wakes up
) contemporary life. It is the force and strangeness of the future anterior, corresponding with Jean-François Lyotard’s definition of the postmodern in 1979 as what ‘would have to be understood according to the paradox of the future ( post ) anterior ( modo )’. 18 It is Derrida’s consistent refrain: ‘Life will have been so short.’ 19 People may still say ‘life’s short’ and try to sound serious, but it’s a kind of philosophical joke. It’s a delusory fiction, a play at rounding up what no living speaker is in a position to round up. It’s like a sentence cut down in the
indications in the literary texts of the early
modern period that suggest we be cautious about endorsing this
privilege. Adopting another perspective, over thirty years ago
Jacques Derrida suggested that: ‘Hearing oneself speak is not
the inwardness of an inside that is closed in upon itself; it is the
irreducible openness in the inside; it is the eye and the world
within speech.’ 8
especially The Interpretation of Dreams (especially Chapter 7 ), and Beyond the Pleasure
Principle (Ricoeur, 1970 : 69–86).
Both Lacan and Derrida commented on the Project , and this gives
it another acute interest.
The Project discusses neurones, chains of
communication comprising the nervous system. Freud distinguishes three
types. One, the phi (Φ), are permeable, so that
’ is Jacques Derrida’s ingenious construction of a crypt-word, entailing what is to be kept safe, saved, in an inner safe that mixes up singular and plural, inside and outside. Fors as a preposition means ‘save’, ‘except for’, but can also be a plural form of for (as in le for intérior , ‘in the inner heart’, or en mon for intérior , ‘in my heart of hearts’) as well as playing, like the hinges of a door, on the Latin foris , ‘door’, and thus ‘outside’, ‘out of doors’ (hence the English word foreign ). 1 As I have tried to suggest in the preceding pages