Her main focus, at this time, was English literature and the works of James Joyce. She published Voiles Veils with Jacques Derrida and her work is often considered deconstructive. In introducing her Wellek Lecture, subsequently published as Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing, Derrida referred to her as the greatest living writer in his language French. Her reading of Derrida finds additional layers of meaning at a phonemic rather than strictly lexical level. Along with Luce Irigaray and Julia Kristeva , Cixous is considered one of the mothers of poststructuralist feminist theory.

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H She requires the same of writers: that they too look unflinchingly into the face of the worst, most uncomfortable, most otherworldly H H H. H H H Within the book lurks the temptation to misread the book.

For what it proposes is at once obvious, teetering at the edge of cliche, yet not obvious at all. It is easy, then, to read into it the tired argument of the suffering artist, that all good art comes out of suffering and pain. There is some truth to the cliche, but the very form of the cliche demeans it through vulgarity and simplicity. And with it the reader dismisses the entire package as untrue. But what Cixous proposes here, when not misread, is nothing so crude.

It is full of subtlety and does not involve suffering, death, borders, metamorphosis, displacement or sexuality in any of the traditional ways. These are who she calls descenders on the ladder of writing: To us this ladder has a descending movement, because the ascent, which evokes effort and diffuculty, is toward the bottom.

I say ascent downward because we ordinarily believe the descent is easy. The writers I love are descenders, explorers of the lowest and deepest. H And Cixous is a great reader.

I enjoy reading her version of Poe more than reading Poe himself, directly. As for some of the other writers like Ingeborg Bachmann and Thomas Bernhard, I beam with joy and recognition when she talks about them, as I also read them in a very similar way H H. Which is why we live in legalized and general delusion. Fiction takes the place of reality.

This is why simply naming one of these turns of the unconscious that are part of our strange human adventure engenders such upsets which are at once intimate, individual, and political ; why consciously or unconsciously we constantly try to save ourselves from this naming. H H Cixous understands so much that is pre-speech, pre-understanding, so much that is under the surface and she treats her subject with such care not to explain it away, but to bring just the smallest glint of light onto it.

That was my experience. And that reading the words just brought them forth in my mind more clearly than ever.

One has to go away, leave the self. How far must one not arrive in order to write, how far must one wander and wear out and have pleasure? One must walk as far as the night. Walking through the self toward dark.


Hélène Cixous



Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing Quotes


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