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Bisexuality in Cixous's Le Nom d'Œdipe

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 January 2009


In her essay, ‘The Laugh of the Medusa’, Hélène Cixous talks about bisexuality and writing. Feminist writing may be said to be truly bisexual not in the sense which does away with sexual difference thereby producing neutrality, but in the sense that male and female are both omnipresent, exchanging, intermingling, enriching each other. Freed from the constraints of conventional binary opposition, male and female are able to unite, divide, multiply in an almost endless expansion of possibilities. The celebration of difference which does not divide, which is at the heart of sexual pleasure, transfusing and transforming the whole living being, will be found in women's writing, since women's songs spring from a body which denies castration. I use the future tense, since in the same essay Cixous declares that these songs use the future tense, since these songs have not yet been written, that women must liberate themselves from the dominance of the phallus, of men's language, in order to give voice to thensensuality, their sexuality, in all its complexity; to speak in the language which existed before patriarchal dominance, the fore-language which has a multiplicity of tongues. To sing a woman's song, in the language of the body, which rejects the law of the castrating father, telling of a total sexual pleasure knowing no guilt, no boundaries, is a courageous act in a world which has invented the direst forms of punishment for such transgression.

Copyright © International Federation for Theatre Research 1998

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1. ‘Le Rire de la Méduse’, L'Arc, 61 (1975), pp. 39–54. Reprinted as ‘The Laugh of the Medusa’ in New French Feminisms, eds., Marks, Elaine and de Courtrivon, Isabelle (Harvester Press, 1981).Google Scholar

2. Le Nom d'Œdipe. Chant du corps interdit (Paris: des femmes, 1978).

3. The conventional anglicized forms (Jocasta, Oedipus, Tiresias) are used throughout this paper. In Cixous's text they are simply indicated by their initial (J., T., O.).

4. ‘I wanted to free him from names.

All the names which masquerade as gods,

Objects of worship, through deception and fear

Command obedience. Pass as pure.

Mother, father, truth, living, killing, fault, debt, wife, truth

Husband, king, origin, which man can say which he is?

Names rule.

I wanted to release him.’ Ibid., p. 56.

(The translation is mine throughout).

5. ‘Oh my love, to whom

Should I whisper your names,

My lover wife, my madman.

The silence has become


Love is suffocating me, I am big

With the suffocated names of love.’ Ibid., p. 57.

6. ‘O. And I called you my might

My life, my virgin

My betrothed.

J. You

My life, my right, my

Virginity.’ Ibid., p. 61.

7. ‘O. Promise me never to have any other lover but me

Only me your strength, your child, me

Your father if you like, myself

Your husband, mother, your lover.

Promise me never any other king

J. You my life, my day, my light, I promise.

No, I don't promise. I want you to ask

Again, again and each time tell me who you are for me.

O. I you want, I shall be your driving force, you my grace, me

Your new strength, your dance. If you want I'll be your

mother and then I'll be

Your child

You my child first, if you want.’ Ibid., p. 67.

8. ‘O. As soon as you say that word, I am on you, against you, in you I

Stream into you, all of me

But within me you, the ocean, is gently rocked.’ Ibid., p. 68.

9. ‘J. How to end this torment? To end the pain of not being

You, in you when my lips are on your lips?

O. We must find a way. I want to go to where your heart is beating, I come into your chamber

I want to seize your heart, to hold it in my hands, stroke it.

J. To be your blood. Because it is only there,

In the flesh, in the folds of your chambers

That pain will end. Love will come to rest.’ Ibid., p. 70.

10. ‘Wider, vaster, more immense

I spread myself to love you further and further,

At night I think I can love you no more. I have reached

My limits, the limits of love.

The morning adds infinity and my love for you goes even further.’ Ibid., p. 71.

11. ‘Even if it weren't a dream

If you stood before me, like ill-fortune,

My happiness at seeing you would be immense,

Even if you said ‘I am your son’

And if I believed you, even if it were true,

If I had always feared just that, If you stood before me, I would love you, as I love you,

With my body arid soul

And without names.

Nothing, no secret, no revelation, would stop me

Drawing close to you, closer

And closer.’ Ibid., p. 43.

12. Plays by French and Francophone Women, edited and translated by Makward, Christiane P. and Miller, Judith G. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994), p. 250.Google Scholar

13. ‘Absence itself stopped me. His shirt was open, I couldn't stroke you.’ Le Nom d'Œdipe, p. 75.

14. ‘J. I feel a sleepiness

Spreading over me. Enfolding me.

Great tenderness,

Gathers me up,

Cradles me. I don't recognize it.

It is a being. It isn't a man

It isn't a woman

And yet I am held in

Its arms, my lips brush its skin

My mouth seeks an immense breast.

Ah! It is you! It is you!

It's her, is it you? Yes

I'm right, it's him.

This drowsiness, what bliss

There is a dream looking for me

I can feel it, I don't know

But I'm sure you're here

Looking for me, coming to take me,

Into your dream

To keep me from sight. It's you.

I don't know your name,

I've never known it,

I shall never know him

Who will never awaken me.

How good I feel, at last, so good.’ Ibid., pp. 80–1.

15. ‘O. We have found each other.

You reached the end

In one breath,

And you are falling on my flesh

Like the midnight sun

On the midday sun

Our lips are like ice,

But our tongues burn.

You are my night

Rolling across me,

And I am the silent sea

Opening wide its flesh

For you to pour in,

And so we enter one another,

My mother,

My child.

My flesh is calm,

My suffering will cease,

I have forgotten everything,

I no longer know who is dying.’ Ibid., p. 86.

16. ‘But I do desire the other for the other whole and entire, male or female because living means wanting everything that is, everything that lives and wanting it alive.’ In New French Feminisms, p. 262.

17. ‘Other love—in the beginning are our differences. The new loves dares for the other, wants the other, makes dizzying, precipitous flights between knowledge and invention.’ Ibid., p. 263.

18. See note 12.

19. Avignon festival, a joint Avignon Musical Theatre, France-Culture production, directed by Claude Régy, in the Main Courtyard of the Papal Palace, 26, 28, 30 July 1978.

20. Olivier, Christiane, Enfants de Jocaste (Paris: Denoël, 1980)Google Scholar; English translation: Jocasta's Children. The Imprint of the Mother (London: Routledge, 1989).