Cixous, Hélène. “The Laugh of the Medusa.”

Cixous, Hélène. “The Laugh of the Medusa.” The Rhetorical Tradition: Readings from Classical Times to the Present, edited by Patricia Bizzell and Bruce Herzberg, Boston & New York, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2001, pp. 1520-36.

To remember:

  • about women’s writing: about what it will do (1524).
  • I refuse to strengthen [the effects of the past] by repeating them, to confer upon them an irremovability the equivalent of destiny, to confuse the biological and the cultural. Anticipation is imperative (1524).
  • Thus as there are no grounds for establishing a discourse, but rather an arid millennial ground to break, what I say has at least two sides and two aims: to break up, to destroy; and to foresee the unforeseeable, to project (1524).
  • speaking of … a universal woman subject who must bring women to their senses and to their meaning in history (1524).
  • Beauty will no longer be forbidden (1524).
  • Write! Writing is for you, you are for you; your body is yours, take it (1524).
  • We’re stormy, and that which is ours breaks loose from us without our fearing any debilitation. Our glances, our smiles, are spent; laughs exude from all our mouths; our blood flows and we extend ourselves without ever reaching and end; we never hold back our thoughts, our signs, our writing; and we’re not afraid of lacking (1526).
  • Censor the body and you censor breath and speech at the same time (1527).
  • To write. An act which will not only ‘realize’ the decensored relation of woman to her sexuality, to her womanly being, giving her access to her native strength … it will tear her away from the superegoized structure in which she has always occupied the place reserved for the guilty (guilty of everything, guilty at every turn: for having desires, for not having any; for being frigid, for being ‘too hot’; for not beign both at once; for being too motherly and not enough; for having children and for not having any; for nursing and for not nursing …) (1527).
  • Every woman has known the torment of getting up to speak. Her heart racing, at times entirely lost for words, ground and language slipping away-that’s how daring a feat, how great a transgression for women to speak-even to just open her mouth … even if she transgresses, her words fall almost always upon the deaf male ear (1528).
  • It is by writing … that women will confirm women in a place other than that which is reserved in and by the symbolic, that is, in a place other than silence (1528).
  • In women’s speech, as in their writing, that element which never stops resonating, which, once we’ve been permeated by it, profoundly and imperceptibly touched by it, retains the power of moving us – that element is the song (1528).
  • It is impossible to define a feminine practice of writing, and this is an impossibility that will remain, for this practice can never be theorized, enclosed, coded-which doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. But it will always surpass the discourse that regulates the phallocentric system; it does and will take place in areas other than those subordinated to philosophico-theoretical domination. It will be conceived of only by subjects who are breakers of automatisms, by peripheral figures that no authority can ever subjugate (1529).
  • You only have to look at Medusa straight to see her. And she’s not deadly. She’s beautiful and she’s laughing (1530).
  • Women must write through their bodies, they must invent the impregnable language that will wreck partitions, classes, and rhetorics, regulations and codes, they must submerge, cut through, get beyond the ultimate reserve-discourse, including the one that laughs at the very idea of pronouncing the word ‘silence.’ the one that, aiming for the impossible, stops short before the word ‘ impossible’ and writes it as ‘the end’ (1531).
  • Fortunately, they haven’t sublimated; they’ve saved their skin, their energy. They haven’t worked at liquidating the impasse of lives without futures (1531).
  • More so than men who are coaxed toward social success, toward sublimation, women are body. More body, hence, more writing (1532).
  • A feminine text cannot fail to be more than subversive. It is volcanic; as it is written it brings about an upheaval of the old property crust, carrier of masculine investments; there’s no other way … it’s in order to shatter the framework of institutions, to blow up the law, to break up the ‘truth’ with laughter (1532).
  • Woman is obviously not the woman Nietzsche dreamed of who gives only in order to (1533).
  • Beware, my friend, of the signifier that would take you back to the authority of a signified! Beware of diagnoses that would reduce your generative powers (1535).



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