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La fabrique du genre

 | 
Claude Le Fustec
, 
Sophie Marret

Chapitre I. Troubles dans le genre

Spectral Insisters: Styles of the Feminine (on Althusser, Butler, Derrida, Cixous)1

Frédéric Regard

Texte intégral

  • 1 This essay derives from a lecture given at the invitation of Professor Martin McQuillan for a confe (...)
  • 2 See Slavoj Zizek Looking Awry : An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture, Cambridge (...)
  • 3 See C. Davis, Haunted Subjects : Deconstruction, Psychoanalysis and the Return of the Dead, Basing (...)

1In traditional philosophy as well as in Lacanian psychoanalysis, the dead return, because something went wrong with their obsequies : the duty of the living to bury the dead has not been performed according to established practice2. The return of the dead is thus the sign of a disturbance in the symbolic rite, in the process of symbolization. But once that disturbance has been corrected, the ghost will not insist, and will depart again, dispatched for good this time ; once our symbolic debt has been duly paid, the ghost can be sent away again, and the domains of the living and of the dead can be kept decently separate again. It seems therefore that spectrality has always been some kind of threat to order, a threat to the logic of difference and binary opposites–self and other, past and present, presence and absence, life and death3–, a threat, therefore, to the classic law of ontology, which deconstructionist thinkers and writers have consistently sought to subvert, prominently among them Jacques Derrida and Hélène Cixous.

  • 4 Jacques Derrida, Spectres de Marx  : L’État de la dette, le travail du deuil et la nouvelle Intern (...)
  • 5 Jacques Derrida, Mal d’archive. Une impression freudienne, Paris, Galilée, 1995, p. 100-101.
  • 6 Davis, op. cit., p. 89.
  • 7 Hélène Cixous, «  Contes de la différence sexuelle  », Mara Negron (ed.), Lectures de la différence (...)

2Derrida’s contestation of ontological discourse through the figure of spectrality is well-known. In Spectres de Marx, the ghost, in its strangeness and otherness, is this indeterminate thing which Derrida says he–as opposed to the orthodox academic or scholar–has always desired to encounter, precisely because of spectrality’s defiance of philosophy, psychoanalysis, and semantics4. In Mal d’archive, Derrida goes as far as to claim that without spectrality, there would be no history, no tradition, and even no culture5. As Colin Davis astutely observes, Derrida’s “hauntology”–” la hantologie”, a term coined in Spectres de Marx as opposed to “l’ontologie”–is about learning to live with ghosts, while psychoanalysis is about learning to live without them6. It would be too long to study the question of the return of the dead in Cixous’s extensive corpus. I will be content with referring to her “Contes de la différence sexuelle”, where what she calls “la D. S.” is defined as a movement through which the difference between self and other (notably between Derrida’s writing and that of a number of women writers, including herself) is made problematic by a certain uncanniness, “une forte étrangeté familière”, or “une forte familiarité singulière”, accessible only through the experience of reading the other, an experience very close to writing with the other, in his/her place7. As if, therefore, the experience of reading Derrida produced between the two friends some kind of strange familiarity, or of uncanny sisterhood.

  • 8 See Jacques Derrida, «  Signature événement contexte  » (1971), Marges. De la philosophie, Paris, L (...)
  • 9 See Frédéric Regard, “Derrida Un-Cut : Cixous’s Art of Hearts”, Paragraph. A Journal of Modern Crit (...)
  • 10 Jacques Derrida, «  Choreographies  », An Interview with Christie V. McDonald, 1982, Diacritics, 12 (...)

3I want to suggest in this essay that learning to live with insisting ghosts is exactly what “l’écriture féminine”is all about. To a certain extent, Derrida and Cixous’s experience of reading and rewriting each other should thus be construed as a reinvention–both a continuation and a critique, a rejection and a rediscovery–of the psychoanalytic dialogue, redeployed here through one specific aspect of spectralization, its enunciative aspect : when reading and writing become aware of their structure as “reiteration”, or of “citational grafting”, when an utterance responds to the call, or interpellation, of another past, almost forgotten, utterance, which returns and finds a new life in recontextualization8. Citational grafting then flouts the law of differentiation, for when one creatively reiterates another’s utterance, the line between self and other, sameness and different, past and present, partly collapses. What is also threatened, by the same token, is the difference between male writing and female writing, understood as manifestations of ontological or biological identities : when Derrida feels “interpellated” by Cixous’s text, or Cixous by Derrida’s, to such a point that it becomes almost impossible to decide which utterance is whose, the frontier between self and other, and male and female, is playfully undermined in the operation9. Hierarchical binarism is equally subverted : there is no longer a superior authority who would signify to an inferior rank what should be done and what should not. The very notion of transgression seems to be invalidated : what happens to authority when what takes precedence on the scene of identity production is one such “incalculable choreography” of selves10 ?

  • 11 Louis Althusser, «  Idéologie et appareils idéologiques d’État  », 1970, Positions, Paris, Éditions (...)
  • 12 Judith Butler, “Speech Act as Interpellation”, Excitable Speech : A Politics of the Performative, N (...)
  • 13 “Signature événement contexte”, op. cit., p. 390. Cf. Butler’s commentary on this page, Excitable S (...)

4This leads me to the first point I want to develop. I suggested very briefly that Cixous and Derrida were “interpellated” by each other’s text, a term I implicitly borrowed from Althusser’s famous definition of ideology. I propose to articulate my argument on what I claim is the tacit assumption behind Derrida’s and Cixous’s exercises in self-reconfiguration : a rejection of Althusser’s theatre of identity production as “interpellation”, conceived, as we shall see, as a form of “specularization”–specularization not spectralization11. This is not to say, however, that my reading of Cixous’s and Derrida’s interrelation will be analyzed along the lines of Judith Butler’s recuperation of Althusser’s theory12. What I want to argue for my part is that the deconstructionist spectralization of sexual identity rests on a stylisation of interpellation, a point that Butler misses even when she uses Derrida’s theory of textual iterability, forgetting that what Derrida is dealing with–spacing, or différance–is not articulated on social positioning, but on writing–what he calls “l’écriture”13.

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5In his seminal study of ideology, Althusser, drawing on Marx, affirms the importance of the reproduction of the conditions of production. Althusser nevertheless modifies Marx’s formulation by suggesting that more important still is the reproduction of relations of production (68). To maintain the “status quo”–namely the exploitation of one class by another–is to reproduce productive forces in their interactivity, which is to say submissive workers on the one hand, the agents of exploitation on the other (72). The submission of the exploited classes does not depend solely on repressive state power (the police, or army, say). Althusser’s claim is that there is another “reality”, far more effective than that of brutal or violent repression, and it is this that forms the true condition of possibility of the reproduction of forces. This other, both omnipresent and invisible reality, is that of the “ideological State apparatus”, whose function is to act as the vehicle for the dominant class’s “ideology” (82). For example, in the so-called “pre-capitalist” period, the dominant apparatus–the Church–would have assumed not only religious functions but also those of education, of information and culture. It was the French revolution which, for Althusser, transferred to schools those functions formerly fulfilled by the religious apparatus, with the result that the “School-Family couple” took the place of that of the “Church-Family” one (90-93).

  • 14 See Louis Althusser, “Freud et Lacan” (1964), Positions, op. cit., p. 33.

6If we accept with Althusser this definition of “ideology” as “the system of ideas and representations that dominate the mindset of man or of a social grouping” (97)–an “imaginary representation” of the conditions of existence (101)–, we should never forget that for Althusser ideology also has a “material existence”, that the imaginary relation of individuals to their real conditions of existence must be conceived as being enmeshed within a series of practices, the most obvious examples of which being social rituals : attending mass, going to watch the game, to school, participating in a political meeting, are all practices whose function is materially to inscribe the individual within the dominant ideology (107). Moreover–and this is no doubt the best-known of Althusser’s theories–, the practices that inscribe us within reality, and which simultaneously place us in the grip of this imaginary relationship to the real, are also constitutive of our subjectivity : “ideology”, Althusser famously declares, “interpellates individuals into subjecthood” (110). Here, Althusser offers what has since become a well-known parable : when, as I am walking down the street, a police officer calls after me “Hey, you there !”, the simple fact of my turning around is an act of “recognition” : the simple act of physically turning around signals my having acknowledged that the subject, through its auto-subjection to the Subject (with a capital S) of the interpellation (the one who calls out “Hey, you there !”), is created through a mirroreffect (“en miroir”), in the image of the Subject, which simultaneously defines both the subject’s liberty and its subordination : “[T] he individual is interpellated into (free) subjecthood in order that it might submit freely to the Subject’s orders, and thus that it may freely accept her/his subjection” (121). As Freud and Lacan had intuited, the subject is indeed “decentered”, no longer the source of speech, but an enunciative effect of it, as if performatively spoken into social existence (119)14.

  • 15 Judith Butler, Bodies that Matter : On the Discursive Limits of “Sex”, New York and London, Routled (...)
  • 16 Ibid., p. 7.
  • 17 For a clear exposition of “performance” and “performativity”, see the interview with Judith Butler (...)

7It should be noted here that Althusser’s French formulation of such “apparatuses”, even as they make much of “the family”, remains obstinately emasculated, staging subjects that are unsexed, as if “the family”–be it pre-capitalist or capitalist–did not have a male someone at its head, the representative of a sexual ideology, as if the procedure of interpellation were not a gendered and gendering procedure. Hence my choice of the neutral “it” pronoun for the French “il” signifying the subject, and my hesitation between the feminine and masculine “her/his” for the corresponding French adjective (“son assujettissement”). It is to Judith Butler that we are indebted for highlighting precisely this15. For Butler, whose theory draws heavily on Althusser’s, femininity and masculinity are ideological productions, which is also to say–and she here stresses the enunciative dimension of Althusserian interpellation–performative productions. The phenomenon that Butler terms “girling”, as opposed to “boying”16, is the pragmatic result of a speech act–the “sexing” equivalent of the police officer’s act of interpellation in Althusser’s little theatrical scene. The production of the hetero-sexual opposition should thus be thought not only as an imaginary relation to the real, but also as an ideological, normative staging of the relationship of two-ness, of the difference between self and other. By “staging” should also be understood “performance”–both in the sense of a play, and of a linguistic effectivity : according to Butler’s vision of the performativity of identity, the two subjects called to take up their positions on the stage of sexual difference are therefore bound to one another in a relation of specularity that hinges on an enunciative act17. Again, at no point does Althusser envisage the production of such a sexual opposition through interpellation, any more than he does the possibility of the non-recognition of the interpellation, or indeed that of a counter-interpellation such as that proposed by Butler. It is for this reason that Butler is keen to assert the teachings of Anglo-Saxon pragmatism–particularly those of Austin, briefly mentioned in Bodies that Matter and more extensively used from Excitable Speech onwards, most notably through the reading thereof offered by Derrida in “Signature événement contexte”, a text I have already commented upon, and which it now becomes necessary to come back to.

8Barely a year after the publication of Althusser’s text–and this is certainly no coincidence–, Derrida explains that if the presupposition of any speech act is the existence of a common field, the event that comes to be produced against this field, “in context”, can never in reality be determined by any kind of authority. Feigning to ignore Althusser’s theory of interpellation, choosing instead to draw on Austinian pragmatism, Derrida conceives meaning as an interactive event with risks attached : there is always the possibility available to the subject of “countersigning” other statements, which may be repeated in the form of quotations, or “citational grafts”. As we have already seen, it is this last point that interests Derrida most of all : the “iterability” of a statement (from the Sanskrit itara, “other”, he notes [375]) is never of the order of identical repetition ; repetition is always inevitably bound up with alterity ; a sign always contains the power to break with its “overdetermining context” (377), and this explains why the failure of intentional communication is always not only possible, but perhaps constitutive of living-together. Derrida adds that this disruption of determination, of self-presence and of the presence of meaning, is in fact what we call l’écriture(390). Again, this is a crucial point : what Derrida terms “iterability” or “citationality” enables the elaboration of a theory of writing cut off from its original authority or source, given over to the infinite play of new, unlimited, unforeseeable, and thoroughly inexhaustible recontextualisations. What is more, a writing made up of “grafts”, the effect of which would be performatively to “operate”–which is to say both bring about, or produce, and transform (382)–new enunciative situations, outside of the classic system of authority, outside of the true/false or self/other opposition, would be a writing subversive of normative positioning–an “operation” likely, therefore, to bring about unpredictable sex changes.

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  • 18 Excitable Speech, op. cit., p. 150 (my italics).
  • 19 For an in-depth analysis of Butler’s theories and their extension towards a theory of interpretatio (...)

9This longish detour allows us to see how Derrida’s text enables Butler to complete her critique of Althusser. But it also affords us an insight into the element that Butler misses in drawing on Derrida, of whose work we can also clearly see how far it is the reading of Austin that most interests her rather than Derrida’s “deconstructive” theory and practice of writing. In being drawn, most of all, to what she calls “the social iterability of the utterance”18, that is, in systematically locating the debate on the terrain of the political counter-interpellation19, and in maintaining the assertion of personal difference in the relationship of two-ness, Butler entirely fails to see the stakes of what Derrida calls l’écriture. At the same time, she misses what it is that makes him a theoretician and practitioner of the “feminine”, which is to say, as we shall see, someone who performs readings of the feminine, who enacts l’écriture féminine. In fact, we might say that what escapes Butler is the force of the French verb “opérer”, and of its substantive “opération”, the polysemy of which allows Derrida to play simultaneously on notions of the biological body, and on those of the written work (opus), and thus to define the field of what we might call the corpus.

  • 20 Gender Trouble, op. cit., p. 139.

10We should recall here that Butler (who is a philosopher by training and who frequently cites Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals) defines “style” as a modality of the subjection of each of us to a sexual posture, and that for her there can consequently be no truly chosen style : “styles have a history, and those histories condition and limit the possibilities”20. Sexual opposition is in itself a style of the flesh, a corporeal style, Butler writes, adding that the opposition must be constantly readopted and reaffirmed due to the essential performativity of normative heterosexuality. It is then indeed style that performatively produces the sexual opposition, which is to say that temporalizes and spatializes it according to context :

  • 21 Ibid., p. 40.

Gender is an identity tenuously constituted in time, instituted in an exterior space through a stylized repetition of acts. The effect of gender is produced through the stylization of the body and, hence, must be understood as the mundane way in which bodily gestures, movements and styles of various kinds constitute the illusion of an abiding gendered self.21

  • 22 Jacques Derrida, Éperons : les styles de Nietzsche, Paris, Flammarion, 1978, p. 38-39. All further (...)

11Unsurprisingly, Derrida’s notion of style is altogether different, while bearing also on sexual identity. Taking as his starting point a quotation from Nietzsche’s Gay Science, he suggests that what Nietzsche enables us to think of as “woman”–but Derrida will soon reject the term–is that which “is inscribed at a distance”22. We are dealing here once again with a mode of inscription, a “style”, whose modalities of spacing are not, however, as in Butler, turned outwards, towards the outside, as a demonstration of a subjection to the normative law of heterosexuality, but rather guaranteed as a deferral of all positionality, or as a “Dis-Stanz”. It is precisely this style of deferral, of “différance”, that Derrida proposes to call not “woman” or “femininity”, but “the feminine” (43), a notion thought not from within the violence of the relation of two-ness, from within normative sexual opposition, but as that which puts itself into operation at a distance from any and all fixing (43). Again, one cannot too strongly emphasize that this operation of “the feminine” is inseparable from a “style”, understood as a writing of the self, an opusification of the self : for Derrida, what inscribes (itself) in general is the feminine ; there can be no feminine operation which would not write (itself) (44). We can see how far Judith Butler does indeed seem to have passed over the term écriture, and its crucial importance in Derrida’s deconstruction of “sexual difference”.

  • 23 Jacques Derrida, “H. C., pour la vie, c’est à dire”, in Mireille Calle-Gruber (dir.), Hélène Cixous (...)

12Derrida theorised, but equally definitively enacted, his notion of the “feminine operation” in the 1998 lecture he devoted to Cixous for the Cerisy colloquium on her work23. It is most especially in this formidable essay that the “feminine”–and Cixous’s texts are for him the most tangible emblems of “feminine writing”–is presented as the intranslatable itself, as the unprogrammable linguistic event par excellence (28). According to Derrida, Cixous’s systematic play on homonymy does nothing less than defy the “it is”, or “what is it ?” of ontology, and consequently nothing less than upset the law of Œdipus, who, Derrida recalls, persistently asks “what is it ?” and “who is it ?” (36). By effecting the undecidable, homonymy casts the distribution of places or the order of precedence into disarray (36). Cixous’s writing can thus be termed “feminine” due not to its (biological) origin, but to its constant choreographies of interchangeability, which Derrida sums up as Cixous’s “genius of replacement” (69). Which takes us back to the question of spectrality.

13If it is only through the work of “inscription”, through writing and style, that “the feminine” can be “operated”, this operation can only take place insofar as it hastens a mode of subjectivation liberated from the classic forms of “specularization”–be it in the Althusserian guise of “interpellation”, or in its more recent version of performative “stylisation”. For example, analysing one of Cixous’s homophonic plays on “mai” (the French month of May) and “may” (the English modal verb, which Derrida chooses to read as the equivalent of the French subjunctive “puisse”), Derrida defines how he goes to work on a Cixous text as follows :

Il n’y a pas de règle pour lire les prodiges de cette puissance, il n’y a pas d’autre règle qu’inventer la règle à chaque lettre pour contresigner, s’accorder la verve inspirée de ce «  puisse  » […], s’accorder à elle en se subjonctivant tout ce qu’elle dit ou en s’y subjonctivant, en s’y alliant selon l’alliance ou l’alliage, c’est à dire à la fois faire et interpréter en contresignant. […] À la mesure de ce texte, pour l’invention d’une critique comme poétique de la lecture, il ne peut s’agir que d’un acte d’écriture comme acte d’amour qui lie et lise, puisselire en déliant les fils, tout en tressant une alliance dans l’analyse de la déliaison même. J’ai beaucoup rôdé, pour préparer cette séance, autour des rapports entre subjonctivité et subjectivité, ces deux modes d’assujettissement, de sujétion et de subordination. (95-96 [italics in the text])

14Laurent Milesi offers this excellent translation :

  • 24 Jacques Derrida, H. C. for Life, That Is to Say…, translated, with additional notes, by Laurent Mi (...)

There is no rule for reading the prodigies of this mighty power, there is no other rule than to invent the rule with each letter in order to countersign, to grant oneself the inspired verve of this ‘might’ […], to accord/agree with it while subjunctivating for ourselves everything it says or while subjunctivating to it, all(o)ying oneself to it according to the alliance or the alloy, that is to say, at once to make and interpret while countersigning. […] Only an act of writing as an act of love that binds and reads might read as it unbinds the threads while weaving an alliance in the analysis of unbinding itself, can measure up to this text for the invention of a criticism as a poetics of reading. As I was preparing for this session, I prowled a lot around the relationships between subjunctivity and subjectivity, these two moods or modes of subjugation, subjection, and subordination24.

15The reader is interpellated by writing, called therefore into subjection in a way that defies the logic of differentiation and subordination : writing “subjunctivizes” the reader. What Derrida’s reading of Cixous clearly suggests here–and the implicit reference to Althusser’s theory of subjectivation as subjugation cannot be haphazard–is that Althusserian subjection can be supplanted with a “subjunctivisation” of the subject, the interpellated, reading, and therefore countersigning, subject (124). To produce an essay on Cixous is thus to operate oneself as her “countersignatory”, to be able to substitute the magic might of the “puisse”–“might it happen”, Derrida cries out in English (48)–for the “it is” of all œdipal, ontological distributions–an operation, Derrida notes, that is close to spectralization (103). It is therefore not a case of interpreting Cixous’s work with reference to a relation of two-ness entailing an “I” and a “you”, as a critic or philosopher writing on literature, nor of interpreting this other as imprinted with an ontological seal (a woman writer). Instead, what we have here is a pas de deux : the hierarchical distribution of the usual roles shatters under the force of “the feminine”, of that might that magically subjunctivizes the interpellated subject into a ghost writer.

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16To interpret is to reiterate, as in any communicative exchange, but–and this is what fundamentally escapes Butler–it is to reiterate whilst giving oneself over to this leap into the unconscious spectrality of language, its “enchanting” force (97). This magical or spectral enchantment of Derrida’s writing by Cixous’s (to which the response is a similar “enchantment” of Cixous by Derrida) is an operation which thus escapes the violence of specularity, understood as interpellation and counter-interpellation, or as the normative distribution of identities and statuses. A troubling instability, multiplicity, or crossing of sexual identities, Derrida’s reading-writing, much more than a counter-interpellation, is indeed a “counter-signature”, which is also to say a translation of the untranslatable, an untranslatable translation of the untranslatable. Here, one may think of Derrida’s replacing one word by another in Cixous’s text, thus substituting himself for the author, taking her place, like a spectral alter ego.

  • 25 Jacques Derrida, “Un ver à soie : points de vue piqués sur l’autre voile”, in Jacques Derrida and H (...)

17This is particularly the case in “Un ver à soie”25. Derrida cites the instances of the word “le voile” in Cixous’s text, and notes that in the play of homonymy which makes Cixous’s confession untranslatable, she has omitted the possibility of “la voile” (56-57). The homonymy that Cixous omits, or at least appears to omit, is thus reintroduced by Derrida, thereby authorising himself to inscribe a mark of the feminine in Cixous’s text, in her place, as if the unconscious vacancy of the definite article “la” were waiting for Derrida in order to take place, as if Derrida had been awaited in order to provide the phantom “la”, as if he had been called to the text as a feminine guest writer, in order to write in place of the other, as her ghost writer.

  • 26 Hélène Cixous, Portrait de Jacques Derrida en Jeune Saint Juif, Paris, Galilée, 2001. All reference (...)
  • 27 Jacques Derrida, “Circonfession”, in Bennington G., Jacques Derrida, Paris, Seuil, 1991.
  • 28 Spectres de Marx, op. cit., p. 18.
  • 29 On the question of “words beneath words”, see Starobinski, J., «  Les Mots sous les mots : textes i (...)

18When Cixous, in her turn, reads Derrida in her Portrait of Jacques Derrida26, she draws on Derrida’s “Circumfession”–a meditation made up of fifty-five “periods” or “circumlocutions” written in as footnoted additions to the book devoted to Derrida by Geoffrey Bennington27. Cixous offers up nine extracts from the “Circumfession”, reproduced on separate pages, annotated and highli-ghted–or rather “surlined”–in her hand, in coloured pen (red, blue or black). The portrait that Cixous offers us, therefore, does not work over Derrida’s life, but over Derrida’s attempts at writing himself. The nine acts of sur-lining then show how Cixous’s “langue”, that is, both her language and her tongue, goes to work to open up Derrida’s own–to borrow a phrase from Hamlet–to throw it “out of joint”28, in order to find its unconscious ghosts or spectres, ushered in not as the deadly repressed of Derrida’s language, or, to return to Althusser, as its “specular” other, but as its own unheard of power of survival. As in Derrida’s work, operating “à l’enchant de Cixous”, under her spell, what we are dealing with here once again is a style of writing. To take but one example, period 8 of “Circumfession”, sur-lined and annotated in red (31), reveals a secret arrangement of Derrida’s writing, as an unexpected cryptogram, or an anagram that might have escaped overdetermination : the play of the a, i, and y, that is to say of the vowels, be they seen or heard, in Derrida’s first name, “Jacky”, is at work in “Circumfession”. To write Derrida’s portrait would thus be for Cixous to lay her hands on his hypogram, even if it means cobbling together, by means of paragrams or metagrams, the unknown meaning of Derrida’s confession, the ghostly meaning traced out unbeknownst to Derrida29.

19The practice of surlining thus does not introduce a separation between the sexes ; nor does it constitute an interpellation of Derrida. Another case, then, of a subversion of two-ness : to surline, as opposed to underline, the text of the man Derrida, to retrace by hand what the hand has already traced, and to bring (back) out that which the other’s hand has already inscribed, is to abrogate the law of the difference between the two. When the hand surlines the corpus, when the second, biologically feminine hand, weds the work of the first, biologically masculine hand, the body becomes one with the other body, criticism incorporating itself into the text, also incorporating, as it were, the corpus, writing in Derrida’s place, as his ghostly double, as his ghost writer, even as Cixous’s intervention does not, in chronological terms, precede Derrida’s text.

20And this is at bottom why we finally find a facsimile reproduction of an unpublished rough draft of “Circumfession” (110). By substituting for the traditional photographic portrait of the author the reproduction of an autograph taken from the Derrida archives, Cixous invites the reader to see the resemblance, the similarity, the consanguinity between the two handwritten operations–her own, and that of Derrida. Telling the difference between the work of Cixous and that of Derrida is all the more difficult for the fact that this text illustrates how far Derrida always worked at self-deconstructing, at self-dividing, at self-spectralizing. Cixous’s nine micro-portraits are thus in the image of Derrida’s self-portrait, not in the specular sense of Althusser’s hierarchical interpellation, or of Butler’s normative sexing, but in the sense of a profound writerly/readerly fraternity or sorority, transcending all kinds of fixity and positioning.

21The practice of surlining should therefore be granted a true pragmatic force : the surlining is invited by the text in order to allow the text’s lifeline to show through. Which also means that the spectre is not waiting in the wings, but that, again, it is constituted through the reading, as the issue of the meeting between the text’s spirit or spectre and its posthumous ghost-writer. Everything is happening, or rather taking place, as if Derrida’s text were secreting in its turn its own “yet-to-be-said” (“c’est à dire”), a ‘yet-to-be-said’ not imported from the outside in a metaphysical mode, but drawn from the inside, as a knowledge haunting the text unbeknownst to it, an unconscious knowledge, always-already there, intimately incorporated into Derrida’s tongue, fluid on and fluent in Derrida’s tongue. If Cixous lends him her eyes, ears, hand and tongue, she thereby offers him also her countersignature.

22It is through this creative reiteration that the signatory of the Portrait subjunctivizes herself too, constitutes herself in the same movement, as subject of her own act of enunciation. Cixous’s hand invites us to hear the unheard of Derrida’s text. For instance, in period 16 Cixous’s annotations usher in Derrida’s friend’s name, Elie Carrive, in a subjunctive verb-form : “qu’arrive Elie !”, a replacement which is only possible aurally, by homophony. It is this “subjunctivization”of language that grants what may be conceived as the unconscious wish, the desire, of Derrida’s tongue, and which at the same time irrigates the essay by Cixous, who herself only authorizes herself to become the signatory of her own text for having felt the desire, touched, seen and heard breathe the spirit of Derrida, or rather the spectral spirit of Derrida’s language.

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  • 30 Hélène Cixous, Insister. À Jacques Derrida, Paris, Galilée, 2006. All further references given in t (...)

23We may now come back to my initial reminder of the function of ghosts in symbolic rites according to Lacanian psychoanalysis. In Cixous’s posthumous homage to Derrida, Insister30, what I have called the pas-de-deux, which she here calls “the disordering of two-ness” (“la désordonnance du deux”, 16), is placed at the heart of Cixous’s and Derrida’s reciprocal enchantment. Something other, irreducible, undecidable, untranslatable, stubbornly defying the law of truth and falsity, keeps insisting back into the text, spectrally, ghostly. But the disturbance is not here to be corrected, as one would correct a grammatical mistake, a grammatical faux-pas. For example, at the very end of Insister, Cixous recalls one such grammatical faux-pas (118-119), one that Derrida, she claims, would recurrently reproach her with, although the mistake would be made orally, and only in her conversations with her close friend. Instead of saying “Je ne sais pas ce que je peux faire” (“I don’t know what I can do”), Cixous apparently uses the dodgy structure “Je ne sais pas qu’est-ce que je peux faire” (“I don’t know what is it I can do”). It would be too long to go into a detailed analysis of what is at stake here (it has of course something to do with the Œdipal, ontological what-is-it question). What matters for our purpose is that through her close friend’s reproach, the risk of classic, hierarchical, gendering interpellation is made manifest in Cixous’s text : she had better correct herself, her male friend tells her, chase away this ghostly mistake, find a way of burying it properly. Strangely, though, this little theatre of the erring would-be female writer and of the superior male grammarian is not presented as a painful, violent way of alloting Cixous a fixed place. One of the reasons for this is that this recurrent mistake–Cixous’s “qu’est-ce-quer”, as Derrida puts it (118), her “what-is-iting”–seems to be reserved for Derrida’s ears only, as a token of their complicity, or intimacy. Cixous even asks her daughter, “la grammairienne par excellence”, whether she has ever noticed this grammatical mistake in her mother’s mouth before, and the answer is unequivocally negative (118). One other reason why the process of specularization does not take place, is that it all happens in writing, through writing : the dead friend’s reproach (“reproche”) to this exclusively oral mistake is recalled into a text, which not only narrates how this mistake apparently kept insisting into Cixous’s and Derrida’s dialogues, but also organizes its survival through its reinscription, and its subsequent homonymic play on “reproche” and “rapproche” (Derrida is a proche who addresses reproches). This unexpected, insisting return of the mistake ensures that the surviving friend’s faux-pas will therefore eternally resist correction, and will thus operate a paradoxical rapprochement between the separated close friends, as a tender form of re (ap) proaching. The ghost of the faux-pas is then kindly invited to insist back into writing and disorder the two-ness of violent interpellation, as well as of normative “girling”and “boying”. In fact, spectrality, called here “le rêvenir” (100-103), turns each of the two locutors, dead or alive, into the other’s “insister” (“my insister”, 42), or into a posthumous (in) sisterhood.

24Which takes me back to my initial suggestion that Cixous and Derrida, while engaging in an implicit dialogue with Althusser’s theory of interpellation, reinvent the psychoanalysis of gender-production through their reading of each other. The ghost is not summoned onstage to be sent away ; writing is not the proper way of burying the departed : writing, feminine writing, is in fact a faulty burial. Which doesn’t mean that writing is unethical. Spectrality is an injunction to preserve the other, to preserve otherness and safeguard the presence/absence of what/who no longer exists in the flesh, but in fact does not yet exist, the almost unnameable which pushes at the boundaries of language and thought, and whose mystery writing aspires to attend to. When Cixous wrote Insister, what was at stake was not simply the writing of a tribute to the departed friend. What mattered, I think, was to maintain a dialogue with the spirit of the dead. In the experience of “insistering”, contrary to what is the norm in classic psychoanalysis, grieving must never be terminated.

Notes

1 This essay derives from a lecture given at the invitation of Professor Martin McQuillan for a conference held at the University of Leeds (“Hélène Cixous, Jacques Derrida: Their Psychoanalyses”, 1-3 June 2007), and finds its origin in an article written in French for a special issue of Poétiques Comparatistes, (“Pas de deux : les styles du féminin”, Littérature et identités sexuelles, Anne Tomiche and Pierre Zoberman (ed.), Paris, Kimé, 2007, p. 29-46).

2 See Slavoj Zizek Looking Awry : An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture, Cambridge, Mass., The MIT Press, 1991, p. 23.

3 See C. Davis, Haunted Subjects : Deconstruction, Psychoanalysis and the Return of the Dead, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007, p. 75.

4 Jacques Derrida, Spectres de Marx  : L’État de la dette, le travail du deuil et la nouvelle Internationale, Paris, Galilée, 1993, p. 18.

5 Jacques Derrida, Mal d’archive. Une impression freudienne, Paris, Galilée, 1995, p. 100-101.

6 Davis, op. cit., p. 89.

7 Hélène Cixous, «  Contes de la différence sexuelle  », Mara Negron (ed.), Lectures de la différence sexuelle, Paris, Des femmes, 1995, p. 56-68.

8 See Jacques Derrida, «  Signature événement contexte  » (1971), Marges. De la philosophie, Paris, Les Éditions de Minuit, 1972, p. 381 (all further references given in the body of the text will be to this edition).

9 See Frédéric Regard, “Derrida Un-Cut : Cixous’s Art of Hearts”, Paragraph. A Journal of Modern Critical Theory, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, Volume 30, Number 2, July 2007, p. 11-16 ; and also “‘Reiterature’, or the Haunting of Style in the Portrait of Jacques Derrida by Hélène Cixous”, Kate Griffith and David Evans (ed.), Haunting Presences : Ghosts in French Literature and Culture, Bangor, The University of Wales Press, 2008, à paraître.

10 Jacques Derrida, «  Choreographies  », An Interview with Christie V. McDonald, 1982, Diacritics, 12, 2, 1982, p. 75-76.

11 Louis Althusser, «  Idéologie et appareils idéologiques d’État  », 1970, Positions, Paris, Éditions Sociales, 1976, p. 67-125. All further references in the text will be to this edition. The translations are mine.

12 Judith Butler, “Speech Act as Interpellation”, Excitable Speech : A Politics of the Performative, New York and London, Routledge, 1997, p. 24-28.

13 “Signature événement contexte”, op. cit., p. 390. Cf. Butler’s commentary on this page, Excitable Speech, ibid., p. 148-150.

14 See Louis Althusser, “Freud et Lacan” (1964), Positions, op. cit., p. 33.

15 Judith Butler, Bodies that Matter : On the Discursive Limits of “Sex”, New York and London, Routledge, 1993, p. 121.

16 Ibid., p. 7.

17 For a clear exposition of “performance” and “performativity”, see the interview with Judith Butler conducted by Gary Olson and Lynn Worsham, “Changing the Subject” (2000), reproduced by Sarah Salih in The Judith Butler Reader, Oxford, Blackwell, 2004, p. 344-345.

18 Excitable Speech, op. cit., p. 150 (my italics).

19 For an in-depth analysis of Butler’s theories and their extension towards a theory of interpretation, see Jean-Jacques Lecercle, “Language, or Interpellation”, in Interpretation as Pragmatics, Basingstoke, Macmillan, 1999, p. 162.

20 Gender Trouble, op. cit., p. 139.

21 Ibid., p. 40.

22 Jacques Derrida, Éperons : les styles de Nietzsche, Paris, Flammarion, 1978, p. 38-39. All further references given in the body of the text will be to this edition.

23 Jacques Derrida, “H. C., pour la vie, c’est à dire”, in Mireille Calle-Gruber (dir.), Hélène Cixous. Croisées d’une œuvre, Paris, Galilée, 2000, p. 13-140. All subsequent page references given in the body of the text are to this edition.

24 Jacques Derrida, H. C. for Life, That Is to Say…, translated, with additional notes, by Laurent Milesi and Stefan Herbrechter, (ed.) Werner Hamacher, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2006, p. 104.

25 Jacques Derrida, “Un ver à soie : points de vue piqués sur l’autre voile”, in Jacques Derrida and Hélène Cixous, Voiles, Paris, Galilée, 1998, p. 23-85. All references in the body of the text are to this edition.

26 Hélène Cixous, Portrait de Jacques Derrida en Jeune Saint Juif, Paris, Galilée, 2001. All references in the body of the text refer to this edition.

27 Jacques Derrida, “Circonfession”, in Bennington G., Jacques Derrida, Paris, Seuil, 1991.

28 Spectres de Marx, op. cit., p. 18.

29 On the question of “words beneath words”, see Starobinski, J., «  Les Mots sous les mots : textes inédits des cahiers d’anagrammes de Ferdinand de Saussure  », To Honour Roman Jakobson. Essays on the Occasion of His Seventieth Birthday, Paris and the Hague, Mouton, 1967, tome III ; on the readings opposed to Saussure’s text by Rifaterre and Derrida, see Paul de Man’s well-known critique, “Hypogram and Inscription” (1981), The Resistance to Theory, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1986. According to de Man, who upholds Derrida’s reading against that of Rifaterre, and with whom I am in complete agreement here, any signature blurs the boundary between the aleatory and the fixed.

30 Hélène Cixous, Insister. À Jacques Derrida, Paris, Galilée, 2006. All further references given in the body of the text will be to this edition.

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