Gender Studies

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The Laugh of the Medusa Author(s): Helene Cixous, Keith Cohen, Paula Cohen Source: Signs, Vol. 1, No. 4 (Summer, 1976), pp. 875-893 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3173239 Accessed: 22/04/2009 14:57 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=ucpress. Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 to build trusted digital archives for scholarship. We work with the scholarly community to preserve their work and the materials they rely upon, and to build a common research platform that promotes the discovery and use of these resources. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

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VIEWPOINT

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.

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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...
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