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The Laugh of the Medusa
Helene Cixous Translated by Keith Cohen and Paula Cohen
I shall speak about women's writing: about what it will do. Woman must write her self: must write about women and bring women to writing, from which they have been driven away as violently as from their bodies-for the same reasons, by the same law, with the same fatal goal. Woman must put herself into the text-as into the world and into history-by her own movement. The future must no longer be determined by the past. I do not deny that the effects of the past are still with us. But I refuse to strengthen them by repeating them, to confer upon them an irremovability the equivalent of destiny, to confuse the biological and the cultural. Anticipation is imperative. Since these reflections are taking shape in an area just on the point of being discovered, they necessarily bear the mark of our time-a time during which the new breaks away from the old, and, more precisely, the (feminine) new from the old (la nouvelle de l'ancien). 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. I write this as a woman, toward women. When I say "woman," I'm speaking of woman in her inevitable struggle against conventional man; and of a universal woman subject who must bring women to their senses This is a revised version of "Le Rire de la Meduse," which appeared in L'Arc (1975), pp. 39-54. [Signs:Journal of Womenin Culture and Society 1976, vol. 1, no. 4] ? 1976 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.
Laugh of the Medusa
and to their meaning in history. But first it must be said that in spite of the enormity of the repression that has kept them in the "dark"-that dark which people have been trying to make them accept as their attribute-there is, at this time, no general woman, no one typical woman. What they have in commonI will say. But what strikes me is the infinite richness of their individual constitutions: you can't talk about a female sexuality, uniform, homogeneous, classifiable into codes-any more than you can talk about one unconscious resembling another. Women's imaginary is inexhaustible, like music, painting, writing: their stream of phantasms is incredible. I have been amazed more than once by a description a woman gave...