The Laugh of Medusa

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THE LAUGH OF MEDUSA
1. Cixous is well known for her notion of écriture feminine. In "The Laugh of the Medusa," Cixous maintains that to define a feminine practice of writing, or écriture feminine, is not possible since "it will always surpass the discourse that regulates the phallocentric system" that aims to theorize or enclose it (1976, p. 883). Cixous discusses her wariness of reductive language that would simplify or capture her practice of écriture feminine. Nonetheless, her basic attempt is to free language and to offer new ways of writing and speaking. To do so, she emphasizes the fictional and poetic elements in her writing. In questioning structures of power, Cixous advocates the freeing of self through writing. In turn, freeing the self (or the subject) means rethinking traditionally repressed categories; for example, woman, the body, and writing. Cixous argues against the association of the phallic subject with narcissism and death, which simultaneously equates women with death. In contrast to an emphasis on narcissism and death, Cixous suggests an economy of the gift—an economy that is based on giving and receiving. The exchange represented by an economy of the gift would mark a new mode of exchange, for Cixous, and would arise through linguistic changes. In turn, in Cixous's view, it is only through linguistic changes that social changes are possible. Thus, Cixous encourages women to "write themselves"; that is, women should write their bodies and their desires, which have always and only been written and discussed by men. The transformation of the relationship between self and other is central to Cixous's writing and constitutes its political dimension. While Cixous wrote her dissertation on Irish author James Joyce, her emphasis on life over death separated her from him. Although Cixous recognized Joyce for his emphasis on transforming linguistic structures as a means of changing mental structures, Joyce ultimately maintained that one must lose...
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