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Hélène Cixous, (born June 5 1937), is a French feminist writer, poet, playwright, philosopher and literary critic. She was born, and grew up, in Algeria, in a German Jewish family. She is a professor of English literature at the University of Paris-VIII, which she helped to found, and whose center for women's studies, the first in Europe, she founded. She has published widely, including twenty-three volumes of poems, six books of essays, five plays, and numerous influential articles. Along with Julia Kristeva, Cixous is one of the best-known of the late-20th-century "French feminists". She has also published with Jacques Derrida and her work is often considered part of deconstruction.

Cixous is best known to English readers for her 1975 essay "The Laugh of the Medusa" and her later book The Newly Born Woman. Her fiction, dramatic writing, and poetry are not often read in English, and much of this work has not been translated from the original French.

"The Laugh of the Medusa," an extremely literary essay, is well-known as an exhortation to a feminine mode of writing (the phrases "white ink" and "écriture féminine" are often cited, referring to this desired new way of writing). It is a strident critique of "logocentrism" and "phallogocentrism," having much in common with Jacques Derrida's slightly earlier thought. The essay also calls for an acknowledgement of universal bisexuality, or polymorphous perversity, which is clearly a precursor of queer theory's later emphases; and it swiftly rejects many kinds of essentialism which were still common in Anglo-American feminism at the time.

References

  • "The Laugh of the Medusa". Orig. English pub. Signs, Summer 1976. Anthologized in:
    • New French Feminisms, ed. Elaine Marks and Isabelle de Courtivron. ISBN 0-87023-280-0.
    • The "Signs" Reader: Women, Gender, and Scholarship, ed. Abel and Abel. ISBN 0226000753.
  • The Hélène Cixous Reader. ISBN 041504930X.

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