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The Impassioned Writer: General Lessons Learned From Feminist Writing

1074 words - 5 pages

Écriture, it is said in Hélène Cixous’ biographical introduction, is perhaps best understood by how it represents French theory in contrast to German and Anglo-American varieties. Most crucially, the biography notes, is that éctiture provides a matrix to discuss an idea that lacks a connection to empirical reality, something lacking in the other two aforementioned traditions (Leitch et al. 1938). This is, of course, a highly intriguing proposition. Just as Jacques Derrida invited us to step outside the preconceived boundaries of what produces a text, Cixous similarly considers the opportunities women have to produce “the very possibility of change” (1946). Without question, this strikes at some of the fundamental principles of feminism; further, it speaks to a necessity of theory more generally, the importance of speaking from a position that is actionable. Most crucially, I think, is emphasis Cixous places on writing, on finding the “occasion to speak,” becomes a type of explosive weapon for criticism; it is on this point that I think a attentive consideration between Cixous and Barbara Smith is productive, which I develop in the following thoughts.
If we were looking for a way to discuss Cixous’ writing, one obvious way would be by admiring the sheer force of emotion it conjures. For instance, the militant and combative language that Cixous employees when detailing the imperative for women to seek a return to their “confiscated” body fills her work with the passionate force that only comes from deep personal investment: “We must kill the false woman who is preventing the live one from breathing. Inscribe the breath of the whole woman” (1947). Without question there is a rhetorical aspect to this passage, the language is meant to evoke not only an intellectual response, but also a some what more instinctual response, as well. It reads as a sort of ‘rally the troops’ cry; in an act of solidarity, woman must individually speak her words. This now, of course, leaves a male reader now nearly thirty years removed (me) considering how this sort of passion and force can be used for my own purpose, those things I feel ardently about.
Admittedly, it is presumptuous of me to know precisely what this sort of impassioned writing entails, especially when in comes to writing in a feminine voice, as Cixous proposes. I am not (despite my best efforts) anywhere approaching the poetic talents of Jean Genet or, for that matter, Heinrich von Kleist. Yet my concerns does not stem from a relative lack of talent, however pronounced that may be. Nor is my concern is my Cixous calls a fear of femininity (1952). Instead, it is from awareness that co-opting the voice of another is fraught with theoretical pitfalls. Years after publishing her groundbreaking work during the late 1960s onwards, Julia Kristeva lamented that her work had been co-opted by American academics, simplified (and likely sanitized) and caricatured, which lead her to remark about how her own work was...

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