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The Laugh of the Medusa

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  1,484 ratings  ·  131 reviews
Cixous is issuing her female readers an ultimatum of sorts: either they can read it and choose to stay trapped in their own bodies by a language that does not allow them to express themselves, or they can use their bodies as a way to communicate.

"The Laugh of the Medusa" is an extremely literary essay and well-known as an exhortation to a "feminine mode" of writing; the ph
translation published by 'Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society', Vol. 1, No. 4 (Summer 1976), pp. 875-893, 20 pages
Published 1976 by The University of Chicago Press (first published 1975)
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Steven Godin
Thought provoking read, if a little on the short side, which concerns the traditional representations of women by men in literature and other scholarly texts, Cixous begins her analysis by invoking the classical figure of Medusa, but she does so by refiguring how Medusa has been represented through the ages. Traditionally, Medusa has been seen as a physical and moral monstrosity; with snakes instead of lovely flowing hair, Medusa turns the men who look upon her to stone. However, Cixous’s Medusa ...more
Apr 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
If you have the opportunity, then I would suggest reading this work in french. It is only then that you will see the marvelous writing of Helene Cixous. Derrida was once quoted as saying that Cixous was the best contemporary french author, and I do not have my doubts about that. In this manifesto, Cixous calls out to all women, saying, "now is the time to write!" That through the written word, or "ecriture feminine," women can re-define themselves by their own performance and not only reclaim th ...more
May 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
"Let the priests tremble, we're going to show them our sexts!"
Josiah Patterson
Mar 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
As a feminist essay, The Laugh of the Medusa is written specifically to women imploring them to write. In all aspects, her writing is concise, navigable and powerfully sturring. At the very beginning, Cixous states, “woman must write her self: must write about women and bring women to writing, from which they have been driven as violently as from their bodies." The purpose of this writing is for women to bring meaning to their own history, their own bodies, and their own sexuality. Through this ...more
"Almost everything is yet to be written by women about femininity: about their sexuality, that is, its infinite and mobile complexity; about their eroticization, sudden turn-ons of a certain minuscule-immense area of their bodies; not about destiny, but about the adventure of such and such a drive, about trips, crossings, trudges, abrupt and gradual awakenings, discoveries of a zone at once timorous and soon to be forthright."
Jun 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Unquestionably one of the seminal feminist texts of the 70s, it displays all the trappings of second wave feminism, stuck in the binaries and oddly Freud-focused. Still, Cixous language is dazzling and the force behind her words is extremely present.
Jan 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It's such a beautiful masterpiece. It focuses on the second wave of feminism and why women should write. It also falls under the category of psychoanalytical feminism. Overall, it's a wonderful feminist text.
Stephen Secomb
Dec 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
From: MensWork/Gathering Women, Vol 1, 3, 1995, (pp.8-9)

Stephen Secomb

(Obsolescent) review of "The Laugh of the Medusa" (1975), (New French Feminisms,
Claire Marks and Babette de Courtivron (Eds). Sussex: Harvester Press, 1986).

Twenty years after it was written, I read Hélène Cixous' 'The Laugh of the Medusa', and I am suddenly angry.

My immediate desire is to dust off my best level scholarly tone and write a scathing review. I want to lash out, to hurt. But honestly, what's
Nov 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: university
Do we need more feminist writing? Yes.
Do we need more feminist writing like Helene Cixous? Hell yes.

"Woman must write her self: must write about women and bring women to writing, from which they have been driven away as violently as from their bodies - for the same reasons, by the same law, with the same fatal goal. Woman must put herself into the text - as into the world and into history - by her own movement."

Of course feminism has come a long way ever since The Laugh of the Medusa has been w
Apr 29, 2020 rated it liked it
Less laughing, more Medusa pls
Fucking finally. Almost two months to finish a goddamn 20-page essay. I am ashamed.

Anyway, it was ok, I guess. Cixous had a lot of interesting to things to say about women and writing, but the language was aggravating in a way that is hard to explain, and it made it difficult to focus on her points, hence why it took such a long-arse time to finish. She just kept talking in one long incredibly unbroken sentence moving from topic to topic so that no-one had a chance to interrupt; it was really qu
Beth M
Mar 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
"The Laugh of the Medusa" shows its age, but I enjoyed the read nonetheless. Cixous has some beautiful sentences and provides a compelling argument for the alignment of body with language. I especially enjoyed reading it against Lacan, whom Cixous frequently takes to task. I do wonder if her unsettlement of the male/female binary is entirely successful; despite her claims that women must escape the binary of A/not-A, she does insist on separating women from men.
Jun 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, non-fiction, women
"Who, surprised and horrified by the fantastic tumult of her drives, hasn't accused herself of being a monster?" or "...because the unconscious, that other limitless country, is the place where the repressed manage to survive: women, or as Hoffmann would say, fairies. "
Nov 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

A very fascinating read. This is my first experience of diving into the concept of psychoanalytic feminism, and I'm certainly not disappointed. I hope this can help in my thesis.
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
You only have to look at the Medusa straight on to see her. And she's not deadly. She's beautiful and she's laughing.
Sep 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
"I write this as a woman, toward women. When I say "woman," I'm speaking of woman in her inevitable struggle against conventional man; and of a universal woman subject who must bring women to their senses and to their meaning in history."

"I wished that that woman would write and proclaim this unique empire so that other women, other unacknowledged sovereigns, might exclaim: I, too, overflow; my desires have invented new desires, my body knows unheard-of songs."

May 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
liberating !
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
There is a passionate, mystic energy to this piece. Even though it is only twenty pages long, it takes a long time to read because there are so many ideas and images packed in, so many references to think about and understand. I know the word "empowering" is overused, but this work was really empowering for me. The way that Cixous compels women to write is too persuasive--she makes me feel guilty for not writing more! The way she imagines the infinite possibilities for women's writing is so insp ...more
Apr 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
I think we should take very carefully this essay and consider its historical context. We cann0t view it with contemporary 3rd-wave lenses, because it then comes as heavily transphobic and even racist with its constants comparisons of woman with the "Black Continent".
However, Cixous's call for the sexual liberation of women was refreshing during her time, only a few years after the Revolution of Paris '68. However, this liberation also calls for a check, because liberalism has appropriated it and
New goal: 43/43 books read in 2018.
Original goal: 43/52 books read in 2018.
*I read the English translation by Keith Cohen and Paula Cohen, published in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, vol. 1, no. 4: pp. 875-893. Published in 1976.*

I don't think I have words yet. Maybe some day. I definitely will reread this in the future.
For now, here are some of the quotes that spoke to me:

"Writing is for you, you are for you; your body is yours, take it." (pp. 876)

"Write your self. Your body m
Natrila Femi
Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
What a beautiful essay. Here is my favorite line from Cixous:

"To love, to watch-think-seek the other in the other, to despecularize, to unhoard. Does this seem difficult? It's not impossible, and this is what nourishes life--a love that has no commerce with the apprehensive desire that provides against the lack and stultifies the strange; a love that rejoices in the exchange that multiplies."

"She gives that there may be life, thought, transformation. This is an 'economy" that can no longer be pu
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Every woman has known the torment of getting up to speak. Her heart racing, at times entirely lost for words, ground and language slipping away - that's how daring a feat, how great a transgression it is for a woman to speak - even just open her mouth - in public. A double distress, for even if she transgresses, her words fall almost always upon the deaf male ear, which hears in language only that which speaks in the masculine."
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"You, Dora, you the indomitable, the poetic body, you are the true 'mistress' of the Signifier."

"[The woman's] libido is cosmic, just as her unconscious is worldwide."

"I am spacious, singing flesh, on which grafted no one knows which I, more or less human, but alive because of transformation."

So much more I could quote from this gorgeous, earth-shattering essay, but all I can say is, I love being a woman, period.
Apr 01, 2018 added it
Uh not to be sexist but I hate unconventional writing styles so in turn I hate feminine writing and thus this piece

I don't even rly have a fully formed opinion on her thesis I just hated the writing style
Oct 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
it's an essay not a book. nonetheless. lovely read. the way she writes makes you feel like you're listening to her give a long speech :)
"You only have to look at the Medusa straight on to see her. And she's not deadly. She's beautiful and she's laughing. "
Oct 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gender-sexuality
"In one another, we will never be lacking." <3 ...more
Jennifer Irving
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
she writes in poetry and I owe her my body looking back at me from me
Oct 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
"i-woman, escapee" nearly took me out.
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Hélène Cixous is a Jewish-French, Algerian-born feminist well-known as one of the founders of poststructuralist feminist theory along with Luce Irigaray and Julia Kristeva. She is now a professor of English Literature at University of Paris VIII and chairs the Centre de Recherches en Etudes Féminines which she founded in 1974.

She has published numerous essays, playwrights, novels, poems, and liter

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4 likes · 4 comments
“Censor the body and you censor breath and speech at the same time. Write yourself. Your body must be heard.” 164 likes
“And why don't you write? Write! Writing is for you, you are for you; your body is yours, take it. I know why you haven't written. (And why I didn't write before the age of twenty-seven.) Because writing is at once too high, too great for you, it's reserved for the great-that is for "great men"; and it's "silly."

Besides, you've written a little, but in secret. And it wasn't good, because it was in secret, and because you punished yourself for writing, because you didn't go all the way, or because you wrote, irresistibly, as when we would masturbate in secret, not to go further, but to attenuate the tension a bit, just enough to take the edge off. And then as soon as we come, we go and make ourselves feel guilty-so as to be forgiven; or to forget, to bury it until the next time.”
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