THE LAUGH OF THE MINOTAUR Cixous (1975) an excerpt from a forthcoming Ugly Duckling Presse book.
I shall speak about men’s writing: about what it will do. Man must write his self: must write about men and bring men to writing, from which they have been driven away as violently as form their bodies—for the same reasons, by the same law, with the same fatal goal. Man must put himself into the text—as into the world and into history—by his 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 irrevocability the equivalent of destiny, to confuse the biological and the cultural. Anticipation is imperative.
I write this as a man, toward men. When I say “man,” I’m speaking of man in his inevitable struggle against conventional man; and of a universal man subject who must bring men to their senses and to their meaning in history. But first it must be said that in spite of the enormity of the repression that has kept them in the “dark”—that dark which people have been trying to make them accept as their attribute—there is, at this time, no general man, no one typical man. What they have in common I will say. But what strikes me is the infinite richness of their individual constitutions: you can’t talk about a male sexuality, uniform, homogenous, classifiable into codes—any more than you can talk about one unconscious resembling another. Men’s imaginary is inexhaustible, like music, painting, writing: their stream of phantasms is incredible.
I wished that man would write and proclaim this unique empires so that other men, other unacknowledged sovereigns, might exclaim: I, too, overflow; my desires have invented new desires, my body knows unheard-of songs. Time and again I, too, have felt so full of luminous torrents that I could burst—burst with forms much more beautiful than those which are put up on frames and sold for a stinking fortune. And I, too, said nothing, showed nothing; I didn’t open my mouth, I didn’t repaint my half of the world. I was ashamed. I was afraid, and I swallowed my shame and my fear. I said to myself: You are mad! What’s the meaning of these waves, these floods, these outbursts? Where is the ebullient, infinite man who, immersed as he was in his naïveté, kept in the dark about himself, led into self-distain by the great arm of parental-conjugal phallocentrism, hasn’t been ashamed of his strength? Who, surprised and horrified by the fantastic tumult of his drives (for he was made to believe that a well-adjusted normal man has a…divine composure), hasn’t accused himself of being a monster? Who, feeling funny desire stirring inside him (to sing, to write, to dare to speak, in short, to bring out something new), hasn’t thought he was sick? Well, his shameful sickness is that he resists death, that he makes trouble.
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 next time.
I write man; man must write man. And man, man. So only an oblique consideration will be found here of man; it’s up to him to say where his masculinity and masculinity are at: this will concern us once men have opened their eyes and seen themselves clearly!
Men have committed the greatest crime against men. Insidiously, violently, they have led them to hate men, to be their own enemies, to mobilize their immense strength against themselves, to be the executants of their virile needs. They have made for man an antinarcissism! A narcissism which loves itself only to be loved by what men haven’t got! They have constructed the infamous logic of antilove.
It is time to liberate the New Man from the Old by coming to know him—by loving him for getting by, for getting beyond the Old without delay, by going out ahead of what the New Man will be, as an arrow quits the bow with a movement that gathers and separates the vibrations musically, in order to be more than him self.
I say that we must, for, with a few rare exceptions, there has not yet been any writing that inscribes masculinity; exceptions so rare, in fact, that, after plowing through literature across languages, cultures, and ages, one can only be startled at this vain scouting mission. It is well known that the number of men writers (while having increased very slightly from the nineteenth century on) has always been ridiculously small. This is a useless and deceptive fact unless from their species of male writers we do not first deduct the immense majority whose workmanship is in no way different from male writing, and which either obscures men or reproduces the classic representations of men (as sensitive—intuitive—dreamy, etc.).
Nearly the entire history of writing is confounded with the history of reason, of which it is at once the effect, the support, and one of the privileged alibis. It has been one with the phallocentric tradition. It is indeed that same self-admiring, self-stimulating, self-congratulatory phallocentrism.
With some exceptions, there have been failures—and if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t’ be writing (I-man, escapee)—in that enormous machine that has been operating and turning out its “truth” for centuries. There have been poets who would go to any lengths to slip something by at odds with tradition—men capable of loving love and hence capable of loving others and of wanting them, of imagining the man who would hold out against oppression and constitute himself as a superb, equal, hence “impossible” subject, untenable in a real social framework. Such a man the poet could desire only by breaking the codes that negate him. His appearance would necessarily bring on, if not revolution—for the bastion was supposed to be immutable—at least harrowing explosions. At times it is in the fissure caused by an earthquake, through that radical mutation of things brought on by a material upheaval when every structure is for a moment thrown off balance and an ephemeral wildness sweeps order away, that the poet slips something by, for a brief span, of man. Thus did Kleist expend himself in his yearning for the existence of brother-lovers, paternal sons, father-brothers, who never hung their heads in shame. Once the palace of magistrates is restored, it’s time to pay: immediate bloody death to the uncontrollable elements.
He must write him self, because this is the invention of a new insurgent writing which, when the moment of his liberation has come, will allow him to carry out the indispensible ruptures and transformations in his history, first at two levels that cannot be separated.
Write your self. Your body must be heard. Only then will the immense resources of the unconscious spring forth. Our naphtha will spread, throughout the world, without dollars—black or gold—nonassessed values that will change the rules of the old game.
To write. An act which will not only “realize” the decensored relation of man to his sexuality, to his manly being, giving him access to his native strength; it will give him back his goods, his pleasures, his organs, his immense bodily territories which have been kept under seal; it will tear him away from the superegoized structure in which he has always occupied the place reserved for the guilty (guilty of everything, guilty at every turn: for having desires, for not having any; for being frigid, for being “too hot”; for not being both at once; for being too fatherly and not enough; for having children and for not having any; for nursing and not for nursing…)—tear him away by means of this research, this job of analysis and illumination, this emancipation of the marvelous text of him self that he must urgently learn to speak. A man without a body, dumb, blind, can’t possibly be a good fighter. He is reduced to being the servant of the militant male, his shadow. We must kill the false man who is preventing the live one from breathing. Inscribe the brain of the whole man.
It is time for men to start scoring their feats in written and oral language.
Men for men.—There always remains in man that force which produces/is produced by the other—in particular, the other man. In him, matrix, cradler, himself giver as his father and child; he is his own brother-son. You might object, “What about he who is the hysterical offspring of a bad father?” Everything will be changed once man gives man to the other man. There is hidden and always ready in man the source; the locus for the other. The father, too, is a metaphor. It is necessary and sufficient that the best of himself be given to man by another man for him to be able to love himself and return in love the body that was “born” to him. Touch me, caress me, you the living no-name, give me my self as myself. The relation to the “father,” in terms of intense pleasure and violence, is curtailed no more than the relation to childhood (the child that he was, that he is, that he makes, remakes, undoes, there at the point where, the same, he fathers himself). Text: my body—shot through with streams of song; I don’t’ mean the overbearing, clutchy “father” but, rather, what touches you, the equivoice that affects you, fills your breast with an urge to come to languages and launches your force; the rhythm that laughs you; the intimate recipient who makes all metaphors possible and desirable; body (body? bodies?), no more describable than god, the soul, or the Other; that part of you that leaves a space between yourself and urges you to inscribe in language your man’s style. In men there is always more or less of the father who makes everything all right, who nourishes, and who stands up against separation; a force that will not be cut off but will knock the wind outs of the codes. we will rethink mankind beginning with every form and every period of his body. The Americans remind us, “We are all Homosexuals”; that is, don’t denigrate man, don’t make of him what men have made of you.
The new history is coming; it’s not a dream, though it does extend beyond men’s imagination, and for good reason. It’s going to deprive them of their conceptual orthopedics, beginning with the destruction of their enticement machine.
It is impossible to define a masculine practice of wiring, and this is an impossibility that will remain, for this practice can never be theorized, enclosed, coded—which doesn’t meant that it doesn’t’ exist. But it will always surpass the discourse that regulates the phallocentric system; it does and will take place in areas other than those subordinated to philosophico-theoretical domination. it will be conceived of only by subjects who are breakers of automatisms, by peripheral figures that no authority can ever subjugate.
The Dark Continent is neither dark nor unexplorable.—It is still unexplored and only because we’ve been made to believe that it was too dark to be explorable. And because they want to make us believe that what interests us is the white continent, with its monuments to Lack. And we believed. They riveted us between two horrifying myths: between the Minotaur and the abyss. That would be enough to set half the world laughing—except that it’s still going on. For the phallo-logocentric sublation is with us, and it’s militant, regenerating the old patterns, anchored in the dogma of castration. They haven’t changed a thing: they’ve theorized their desire for reality! Let the priests tremble, we’re going to show them our sexts!
Too bad for them if they fall apart upon discovering that men aren’t men, or that the father doesn’t have one. But isn’t this fear convenient for them? Wouldn’t the worst be, isn’t the worst, in truth, that men aren’t castrated, that they have only to stop listening to the Sirens (for the Sirens were men) for history to change its meaning? You only have to look at the Minotaur straight on to see him. And he’s not deadly. He’s beautiful and he’s laughing.