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Analysis Of The Laugh Of The Medusa

Sandra Watson
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Analysis of The Laughter of the Medusa
Throughout history, women have been excluded from any kind of writing that could allow them the
participation in the making of history and culture. Being considered as creatures of lesser rank in
mental capacities and intellect, women have been, over centuries, kept in the dark by a patriarchal
system that has successfully muted their needs for expression, be it physical, oral or written. In her
fundamental essay The Laugh of the Medusa, Hélène Cixous, French philosopher and feminist critic,
openly introduces this idea of woman’s need for writing as a biological drive which intimately relies
on her ceasing back and mastering her own body that has been violently misused by male’s
rhetoric , as Toril Moi asserts that ‘always and everywhere, the rational, active, masculine intellect
operates on the passive, objectified, feminized body’ (189). It’s only from the bodily experience that
women, according to Cixous, can give birth to an «écriture féminine » which will subvert the
phallocentric discourse of masculine writing, along with the logocentric representational system
through which it functions. The purpose of this paper is to examine the key insights that the author
explores in her essay, mainly the feminine writing with the idea of sexual differences. It is, also,
necessary to consider, in the following stages, how Cixous makes use of Freud’s and Lacan’s
psychoanalysis and Derrida’s deconstructist theory to disrupt the phallocentric assumptions, hence
to break up with all forms of repression against women. A particular focus will be on the critic’s
contribution to French feminism and Anglo-American feminist theory.
Le Rire de la Méduse was written by Cixous in 1975, and translated into English as The Laugh of the
Medusa in 1976 by Keith Cohen and Paula Cohen. This influential essay, essentially addressing
women in order to « bring them to writing » (Cixous 875), is expressed in a beautiful and poetic
language to convey the idea of the existence of an écriture féminine, which is already used by the
As with many of her writings, Cixous’s The Laugh of the Medusa revises sexual differences between
men and women from past to present, anticipating a future radical change in the perception of this
notion which would only take shape if woman takes back a body that is hers, from the masculine
repressing language, in order to employ it as a cause and effect of a new genre of writing which
Cixous introduces as the feminine writing. The whole premise of the essay is that « Woman must
write her self: must write about women and bring women to writing . » (Cixous 875). In the light of
this idea, the critic goes on to relate women’s writing to their bodily experiences that represent a
source of desire and urge for creativity. In other words, for a woman to be able to break up with the
old traditional doormat in her skin, she must trace her own body with a feminine language. As a
result, women will create their own tradition of writing, embarking from the past and its repressive



Analysis Of The Laugh Of The Medusa

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