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Feminism Essay by Helene Cixous "Sorties"

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Feminism Essay by Helene Cixous "Sorties" Feminist literary theory is a complex, dynamic area of study that draws from a wide range of critical theories, including psychoanalysis, Marxism, cultural materialism, anthropology, and structuralism. Although feminist literary theory is often described simply as the use of feminist principles and techniques to analyze the textual constructions of gendered meaning, feminists' definitions of gender and of feminism have undergone a number of significant alterations since the early 1970s. "Feminism has developed... a political language about gender that refuses the fixed and transhistorical definitions of masculinity and femininity in the dominant culture".1 From looking at the quotation above it is evident that we can identify some of the issues that are of major concern. By adopting already existing feminist insights and applying them in new ways, literary theorists transform them, thus creating an increasingly diversified field of study. Despite this diversity, most feminist literary theorists share several assumptions. To begin with, they generally agree that hierarchically ordered male/female gender relations impact all aspects of human social existence. Literary representations have concrete, material effects on people's lives, these non-symmetrical male-female binaries both illustrate and reinforce the oppression of real-life women. Like feminism, which critically analyses and attempts to transform contemporary social systems, feminist literary theory entails a twofold movement encompassing both the critique of already existing sociolinguistic structures and the invention of alternative models of reading and writing. ...read more.


Cixous' other argument in the main part of her essay is about the masculine future. Cixous believes that as people we all have the ability to be bisexual as we all have the same qualities and capacities and emotional, passive and active. From looking at the way in which Cixous deals with important issues there are many problems with her method of criticism. Her emphasis upon the female body as a signifier is challenging because it necessarily attaches the sign 'woman' with biology and coupled with this Cixous also frequently refers to the 'woman' as being the physical expression of her own voice. "This constant return to biblical myth and mythological imagery signals her investment in the world of myth: a world that, like the distant country of fairy tales is seen as pervasively meaningful, as closure and unity. The mythical or religious discourse presents a universe where all difference, struggle, and discord can in the end be satisfactorily be resolved."7 French philosopher Michele Le Doeuff considers the thoughts of feminists like Cixous and adds input on the debate on women and language. Le Doeuff explores the way in which our system of thinking 'creates itself in what it represses'. Le Doeuff argues that; "this other is demarcated 'feminine', a definition which philosophy recreates: 'whether we like it or not, we are within philosophy, surrounded by ...read more.


However, her approach is useful as a basis of feminism when coupled with other feminist methods such as Irigaray usage of the 'semiotic' to the idea of binary oppositions and portraying women as active beings. Toril Moi claims that, "fundamentally contradictory, Cixous' theory of writing and femininity shifts back and forth from a Derridean emphasis on textuality s difference to a full blown account of writing as voice, presence, origin".11 Therefore, when looking at the text 'Sorties' it can finally be argued that Cixous does not actually tackle her problem of defining what feminism is, she does suggest some ideas that feminism is infinite in it's 'form' and this can suggest that her earlier idea where there is a hierarchy in language that only represents males. 1 Green, K. LeBihan, Jill. Critical Theory & Practice: A Coursebook p. 229. 2 Rivkin, J. Ryan, M. Literary Theory: An anthology. p. 578. 3 Moi, Toril Sexual/Textual Politic: Feminist Literary Theory, p104. 4 Ibid, p105. 5 Cixous, Helene "Sorties" Rivkin & Ryan p.578-584. 6 Moi, Toril Sexual/Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory,p110. 7 Ibid, p116. 8 Sellers, Susan, Language and Sexual Difference, p120-121. 9 Irigaray, Luce The Sex Which Is Not One, p.24. 10 Green, K. LeBihan, J. Critical Theory and Practice, p.248. 11 Moi, Toril Sexual/Textual Politic: Feminist Literary Theory. P. 117. ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 ...read more.

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