By Jesús R. Velasco
Welcome to Nietzsche 12/13
Let me begin with Cixous. But not with her reading of Clarice Lispector. Not with her art of reading. Rather, with some letters from the prehistory, as she called them, letters from Manhattan. Cixous and this city of New York that, as she says, she loves “without inhabitants.” The dream of the dream city, she says, as if for a shooting —a filmic one, of course.
In one of those letters she has asked a friend to provide her with the address of a hotel where she stayed back in 1965. The hotel does not exist anymore. “Don’t drive today with yesterday’s map. Ce qui signifie: n’écrivez pas aujourd’hui avec une mémoire d’hier. On ne peut pas écrire hier aujourd’hui.”, And a bit further down, “Il n’y a pas d’hier à New York City il y await aussi une librairie d’occasion qui sauvait tous les lives encore jamais lus, qui n’a plus d’hieraujourd’hui.” (Manhattan, 35). [Do not write today with a memory from yesterday. We cannot write yesterday today… There is no yesterday in New York City there was also a second hand bookstore the saved all the books still never read, that does not have Yestoday anymore.] Yestoday, or maybe Todaysterday, I don’t know how to translate this hieraujourd’hui that cannot be summoned in the art of writing, in the challenge of writing —your cannot write today, she says, with yesterday’s tale, Le Récit. The tale has changed, the writing has changed, the time has changed, there is no going back, there is no history of literature, there is no tradition that can support the arts of reading or the arts of writing.
Maybe all that evokes the foundational moments of the écriture féminine in her work, Le rire de la Méduse, “The Laugh of the Medusa”: “I shall speak about women’s writing: about what it will do. 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 her own movement. The future must no longer be determined by the past. I do not deny that the effects of the past are still with us. But I refuse to strengthen them by repeating them, to confer upon them an irremovability the equivalent of destiny, to confuse the biological and the cultural. Anticipation is imperative.”
Because one cannot write yesterday today, anticipation is —indeed— not just imperative, maybe also an imperative. What is the imperative of the écriture féminine? You may remember from Nietzsche 1/13 the conclusions drawn by Heidegger on Nietzsche’s distinction between feminine and masculine reading: whereas the former engaged in intepretation, an aesthetics of reception, the constitution of an unruly audience piecing the object of reading despite the order of the text, the second one focused on production, on the object itself and its internal characteristics —its natural order. Cixous shatters this distinction. Her building the feminine writing is a critical stance towards the possibility of a feminine aesthetics of reception.
Indeed, her Reading with Clarice Lispector, a project that is not only Cixous’, but also Verena Conley’s, theorizes this imperative of anticipation, this rejection of a receptive character, a past (as in having received) of women reading and women writing, by engaging in different, more creative, contemporary relations with the text. She begins by declaring so: either one is read by the text, or one gets involved in its texture. The feminine reading does not abandone logic, but deploys a logic of improvisation. “One of the efforts we make is to be transgrammatical, the way one could say transgressive,” Cixous says. Transgrammatical reading crosses over languages and times, it is anticipation itself.
Cixous’ conceptual and critical capacity is astonishing. It is what makes her writing. Writing and reading in Cixous are anticipation, they capture things before time (this is the etymology of anticipation), before time confuses their culture with their biology. Anticipation puts reception apart —both words share the same verbal root, capio, to articulate two theoretical spaces altogether.
We are here at a turning point in our research, and we are happy to have with us three wonderful voices to delve into this particular point with Cixous: Patricia Williams, Verena Conley, and our gifted student and now master Joseph Lawless.