Please explain "The laugh of the Medusa" written by Helene Cixous.

Expert Answers
e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In language that is difficult, combative, elliptical, and charged with energy, Cixous presents a number of arguments in her essay "The Laugh of the Medusa" relating to women and writing, women's writing, and the politics of gender. 

One of Cixous' central points is that women have been historically kept from writing and from developing a mode of self-expression. Giving women a voice will not simply take the form of women beginning to write as men do, but instead will require the development of a new mode of expression that accounts for the biological and deep-rooted differences between women and men.

Women's writing will be womanly in that it will be, as she says, the "antilogos weapon" (anti-logic, in the sense that males have defined logic in a way that marginalizes women's modes of reasoning and so should be resisted). Women's writing will be the "new insurgent" act. Women's writing will be subversive, will break away from "male discourse" and will reflect the realities of women's bodies and internal lives.

“The Laugh of the Medusa” is also a call to arms, urging women to reclaim their bodies and, by extension, their desires and identities through writing.

The argument here is essentially political (in a social-political mode), as Cixous writes: 

"...hers is not simply a class struggle, which she carries forward into a vaster movement. Not that in order to be a woman-in-struggle(s) you have to leave the class struggle or repudiate it; but you have to split it open, spread it out, push it forward..." 

Cixous calls on women to "write women" in order that the history of sexual opposition which has reduced the place of women in society can be overcome. 



Read the study guide:
The Laugh of the Medusa

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question