New French Feminisms: An Anthology

By Elaine Marks; Isabelle De Courtivron | Go to book overview

Julia Kristeva

X.G.: Before asking ourselves if there is a feminine writing, what is a subject who writes, a writing subject?

J.K.: For at least a century, the literary avant-garde (from Mallarmé and Lautréamont to Joyce and Artaud) has been introducing ruptures, blank spaces, and holes into language. It is what Mallarmé called "the music in letters": Maldoror's explosive Chants or the multiplied condensation of myths, philosophy, history, and verbal experience in Finnegans Wake. All of these modifications in the linguistic fabric are the sign of a force that has not been grasped by the linguistic or ideological system. This signification renewed, "infinitized" by the rhythm in a text, this precisely is (sexual) pleasure (la jouissance).

However, in a culture where the speaking subjects are conceived of as masters of their speech, they have what is called a "phallic" position. The fragmentation of language in a text calls into question the very posture of this mastery. The writing that we have been discussing confronts this phallic position either to traverse it or to deny it. The word "traverse" implies that the subject experiences sexual difference, not as a fixed opposition ("man"/ "woman"), but as a process of differentiation. The word "deny" means that the subject constitutes a fetishistic shelter in order to avoid castration. Only the truly great "literary" achievements bear witness to a traversal, and therefore, to sexual differentiation. In this way, the subject of the writing speaks a truth proper to any speaking subject, a truth that the needs of production and reproduction censure. All speaking subjects have within themselves a certain bisexuality which is precisely the possibility to explore all the sources of signification, that which posits a meaning as well as that which multiplies, pulverizes, and finally revives it.

In Western societies, (sexual) pleasure (the advent of non-sense

From "Oscillation du 'pouvoir' au 'refus'" [Oscillation between power and denial], an interview by Xavière Gauthier in Tel quel, Summer 1974.

-165-

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New French Feminisms: An Anthology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Why This Book? ix
  • Introductions 1
  • Annie Leclerc 79
  • Claudine Herrmann 87
  • Hélène Cixous 90
  • Luce Irigaray 99
  • Warnings 115
  • Antoinette Fouque 117
  • Denise Le Dantec 119
  • Maria-Antonietta Macciocchi 120
  • Arlette Laguiller 121
  • Madeleine Vincent 125
  • Catherine Clément 130
  • Julia Kristeva 137
  • Simone De Beauvoir 142
  • Creations 159
  • Xavière Gauthier 161
  • Julia Kristeva 165
  • Claudine Herrmann 168
  • Marguerite Duras 174
  • Chantal Chawaf 177
  • Madeleine Gagnon 179
  • Viviane Forrester 181
  • Christiane Rochefort 183
  • Research on Women 211
  • Variations on Common Themes 212
  • Utopias 231
  • Simone De Beauvoir 233
  • Françoise Parturier 234
  • Françoise D'Eaubonne 236
  • Annie Leclerc 237
  • Marguerite Duras 238
  • Maria-Antonietta Macciocchi 239
  • Julia Kristeva 240
  • Julia Kristeva 241
  • Monique Wittig 242
  • Suzanne Horer Jeanne Socquet 243
  • Hélène Cixous 245
  • Index 271
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