Feminine Writing

Like all those who read constantly, there is a thread running between each book. Sometimes these threads are part of a conscious intention, other times they are undetectable. Sometimes they are discovered retrospectively. Such a thread has lead me to my current idée fixe: Hélène Cixous, variously described as a professor, feminist writer, poet, playwright, philosopher, literary critic and rhetorician.

Often we are lead to authors grudgingly as I was in the case of Angela Carter. Her reworked fairy tales, exposing their patriarchal roots, stayed in my thoughts. Questions flew across my field of vision like the murmuration of a flock of starlings. Reading is my way of deciphering life; wanting to understand more about deconstructing patriarchal language lead me initially to bell hooks and circuitously to Cixous.

Twice I’ve read Kate Zambreno’s Heroines, one of the exceptional books of the year. Another book that sends my thoughts spinning and wakes me up at night with unresolved questions. In the book and on her blog Kate Zambreno unhitches the notion of feminine writing from gender – as does Cixous – and asks whether writers like Bernhard, Artaud and Rilke are feminine writers.

An exploration into the idea of “feminine”- as contrasted with “masculine” – writing is likely to be the thread that links my reading over the next few months. Cixous emphasises that these terms are not to be equated with “man” and “woman”; part of her intention is to find terms less bound up in emotion and prejudgment. I’ll be reading more Cixous, and constructing a reading list of writers that Kate Zambreno and Cixous discuss. I’ve identified other textually political writers that attempt to dislocate the idea of masculinity and femininity in literary and cultural discourse: Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray, Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze and Jacques Lacan.

Reading along these lines, daunting as some of these writers may be, serves a secondary purpose, that of attempting to breathe life into theory, a core intention of Cixous’ writing. For Cixous, theory is not just intellectual masturbation, but a way of seeing and interpreting the world (and word).

In her perceptive Cixous essay, Verena Andermatt Conley writes,

What if, Cixous likes to ask, there were an asymmetry, not a hierarchy, between the sexes, “manifested” at the level of drives and in the relation to the living. The question is vague and perhaps should remain so. But the key question for women is to ask themselves what they want and not just what men want or want them to be. Stories in popular film and literature are told from the man’s point of view. Women tend to write as oppressed men. Relations between the sexes are vitiated by power and self-interest. Rarely do we see or read about a desire for pleasure and joy with and through the other.

The whole topic is ripe with ethical and moral dilemmas, but one I intend to think about a whole lot more. Please make any suggestions of other writers, fiction or non-fiction that might enable me to ask or address any of these questions.

3 thoughts on “Feminine Writing

  1. Baudrillardian concept of seduction?
    “But is there a feminine figure, of seduction or, for that matter, a masculine figure? Or is there but one form, variants of which crystallize around one or the other sex? Seduction oscillates between two poles, a pole of strategy and a pole of animality (and thus ranges from the most subtle calculation to the most brutal physical suggestion) which we associate with the figures of the seducer and the seductress respectively. But doesn’t this division mask a single form, an undivided seduction?”

    http://wxy.seu.edu.cn/humanities/sociology/htmledit/uploadfile/system/20100724/20100724151252877.pdf

    I have thought a great deal about how seductive reading Baudrillard and Cixous is, Nietzschean “words written in blood to be learnt by heart” is the thread that connects them in my mind, especially after one of your posts made me go back to Cixous after a long time, so thank you for that.

    • Dalva, I agree entirely about how seductive reading Cixous is, Baudrillard too though it is some time since I read his work (must do so again). Thanks for sending the PDF of Baudrillard’s challenge. I cannot sustain my interest in reading such a long document on screen so have ordered the book. It looks fascinating and relevant to some questions I have in mind.

  2. Pingback: Some Well-Intentioned Reading Ideas for 2013 | Time's Flow Stemmed

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