Cixous's The Laugh of the Medusa Critiqued Against Showalter's Essay Feminist Criticism in the Wilderness
In learning about feminist theory this semester, one idea that arose from class discussions was the notion of essentialism. Essentialism, a theory that stresses essence as opposed to existence, was discussed at length and while some classmates found it to reductionary and cliché, it is a question that I assume must be asked of ecriture feminine writing. Does ecriture feminine writing essentialize women? If it does, is essentializing women problematic?
One critique of ecriture feminine by the feminist critique and gynocricitics is that the former essentializes women. In my own understanding of feminist theory, I have related to ecriture feminine in my writing and believe that women should write from their bodies, should write as women, but there were some interesting points raised in class by classmates who do not argue with ecirture feminine's position. This paper will look at the issue surround essentialism; whether a woman writing from her body essentializes women. Ironically, although I find the writing of ecriture feminine writers to be engaging, stimulating and meaningful, I have chosen to write this paper in a linear, structured and straightforward manner. As an exegesis piece of work, I still believe that the notions of writing from female experience and acknowledging female difference are possible.
I will look at an example of Ecriture Feminine writing, that of French feminist Helene Cixous's "The Laugh of the Medusa". This work will then be critiqued against Elaine Showalter's essay "Feminist Criticism in the Wilderness", in which she discusses Cixous' work, as a way to flesh out the limitations (if any) of Ecriture Feminine. While both essays are different, both work to reinforce feminist theory, despite the difference in method and practice.
As a way to understand Ecriture Feminine, I look to Phallogocentrism. Phallogocentrism is the notion that the penis (phallus) is the (symbolic) creative center of creating language and literature. Because men see their penis as the center of their creative abilities, it can be argued that men "write through their bodies". As Cixous suggests, women should also write through their bodies, through the female body, receive their creative power from their bodies.
Showalter postulates that Ecriture Feminine is largely about women's repression but also suggests that it has (slowly) become gynocrentric, focusing more on women's writing (Showalter 2000: 312-313). She says, "All are struggling to find a terminology that can rescue the feminine from its stereotypical associations with...