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Cixous’s Semi-Fictions

Thinking at the Borders of Fiction

Mairéad Hanrahan

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Hélène Cixous, author of over forty works of fiction, was deemed by Derrida to be the greatest living writer in French in 1990. Consistent with this evaluation, her writing is renowned for its dense poetical texture and lyricism. At the same time, she has been described by one of Derrida's translator's, Peggy Kamuf, as 'one of our age's greatest semi-theoreticians'. Connecting these two views, this book argues for a consideration of her texts as ‘semi-fictions’. Telling stories is, irreducibly, part of what Cixous does; it is irreducibly part of what she does. Fiction is at once the creation of an imaginary world and an ethical engagement, as intellectual as it is passionate, with the difficulties of the real. This book offers an in-depth reading of five different texts, addressing the idiomatic specificity of individual works and investigating how the textual fabric unfolds. It shows that the narrative dimension to Cixous’s writing needs to be reckoned with as a key component of the way it troubles the borders between fiction and its others. Each work is approached in relation to a particular theoretical question or discourse to explore how, in staging an encounter with something beyond itself, her fiction is the site of an active thinking.

About the Author

Mairéad Hanrahan is Professor of French at University College London. She is Editor of the journal Paragraph.


This is a beautifully written and subtle study that contains unprecedented insights into the workings of Cixous’s texts, eloquently arguing that these semi-fictions make up the spaces of ‘ongoing thinking, a thinking in movement, rather than a place in which “thoughts” are fixed’

- Alison Rice, University of Notre Dame, French Studies, vol 69, no 4

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