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.
, but also in terms of how her critical work (which resides in her so-called fictional writings as well as in her essays) affects our understanding of ‘fiction’, ‘the novel’, ‘poetry’, ‘literature’, ‘creative writing’, ‘criticism’, ‘narrative theory’, ‘autobiography’, ‘lifewriting’ and so on. Cixous is not so much ‘a writer’s writer’, as a poetic thinker who compels us to develop new ways of approaching both creative and critical writing, both literature and literary criticism and theory.
Historians, critics and theorists alike have tended to overlook
derangers. Now, a few decades later, while we continue to reckon with écriture féminine , we might also supplement and reinforce it with other figures: double lifewriting, night writing, submarine writing, dream children’s literature, the maiopic, ornithophony and so on. 8
In ‘Sorties’ Cixous outlines a notion of bisexuality, a sense of being, feeling, thinking and writing that is not predicated on a logic of ‘warding off castration’:
Therefore, I shall distinguish between two bisexualities, two opposite ways of imagining the possibility and practice
writing calls for a different thinking of all the disciplines and lines between them – ‘biology’ (the study of ‘life’) and ‘history’ (so many his and her and other creatures’ stories) as much as ‘literary studies’, ‘theory’, ‘fiction’, ‘autobiography’, ‘lifewriting’. She invites us to draw them all otherwise.
Scholars, cultural historians and bibliographers may continue to classify early texts such as ‘Fiction and Its Phantoms’ (1972), ‘Sorties’ (1975) and ‘The Laugh of the Medusa’ (1975) as ‘critical essays’, but the writing itself will always resist such
representation she or he creates. In the
opening quotation from the preface above, Ro:Ba: stresses
‘care’ and ‘fidelitie’ in life-writing, but
he seems uneasy with this obligation. Although keen to emphasise the
value of the labour of life-writing (p. 10), he is equally keen to
confess his unoriginality as a writer, claiming that: ‘the
most part of this booke is none of my owne; I onely
: Syrens, 1994).
24 Hélène Cixous and Mireille Calle-Gruber, Rootprints: Memory and LifeWriting , trans. Eric Prenowitz (London: Routledge, 1997), 18.
25 Cixous, Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing , 124–5.
26 Cixous, Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing , 81.
27 Cixous, ‘Writing Blind’, 144.
28 Gilles Deleuze, ‘Hélène Cixous or Stroboscopic Writing’, trans. Martin McQuillan, in Reading Cixous Writing , ed. Martin McQuillan, special issue of Oxford Literary Review , 24 (2002), 204.
29 Jacques Derrida, H.C. for
, Sovereignties in Question: The Poetics of Paul Celan , ed. Thomas Dutoit and Outi Pasanen (New York: Fordham University Press, 2005), 101.
12 Cixous, ‘The Play of Fiction’, 13.
13 Cixous, ‘The Play of Fiction’, 13.
14 Hélène Cixous and Mireille Calle-Gruber, Rootprints: Memory and LifeWriting , trans. Eric Prenowitz (London: Routledge, 1997), 204.
15 Cixous and Calle-Gruber, Rootprints , 204.
16 Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass in Alice in Wonderland , ed. Donald J. Gray, 2nd edn
’, trans. Eric Prenowitz, in Reading Cixous Writing , special issue of Oxford Literary Review , 24 (2003), 17–42: here, 17.
14 Derrida, ‘Ants’, 20.
15 Hélène Cixous, Death Shall Be Dethroned: Los, A Chapter , the Journal , trans. Beverley Bie Brahic (Cambridge: Polity, 2016), 60.
16 See Hélène Cixous, in Hélène Cixous and Mireille Calle-Gruber, Rootprints: Memory and LifeWriting , trans. Eric Prenowitz (London: Routledge, 1997), 100.
17 Cixous, Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing , 51.
18 Cixous and Calle
Complete Dramatic Works , 58–9.
11 Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable , in Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable (London: Calder and Boyars, 1959), 353.
12 Hélène Cixous and Mireille Calle-Gruber, Rootprints: Memory and LifeWriting , trans. Eric Prenowitz (London: Routledge, 1997), 9.
13 Hélène Cixous, Insister of Jacques Derrida , trans. Peggy Kamuf (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007), 13.
14 Hélène Cixous, ‘The Play of Fiction’, interview with Christa Stevens, trans. Suzanne Dow, in White Ink: Interviews on Sex, Text and
Shakespeare’s Roman plays, republicanism and identity in Samson Agonistes
encroaching tyranny, in the manner of Demosthenes against Philip of Macedon, or Cicero’s Phillippics against Antony , for which the Roman senator paid with his life. Writing ‘A Readie and Easie Way to Establish A Free Commonwealth’ on the eve of the Restoration, and indeed re-issuing it thereafter, Milton was assuredly attempting to be England’s Cicero, and the fate of such an orator under conditions of tyranny concerned him personally. He cannot but have entertained a realistic expectation that it might prove to be his own. Etiam ferocissimos domari indeed.