Hélène Cixous (Feminist/Philosopher)
She holds honorary degrees from Queen's University and the University of Alberta in Canada; University College Dublin in Ireland; the University of York and University College London in the UK; and Georgetown University, Northwestern University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the USA.
In 2008 she was appointed as A.D. White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University until June 2014.
Hélène Cixous was born in Oran, French Algeria, to a German Ashkenazi Jewish mother and French Pied-noir Sephardic Jewish father. She earned her agrégation in English in 1959 and her Doctorat ès lettres in 1968.
Her main focus, at this time, was English literature and the works of James Joyce. In 1968, she published L'Exil de James Joyce ou l'Art du remplacement (The Exile of James Joyce, or the Art of Displacement) and the following year she published her first novel, Dedans (Inside), a semi-autobiographical work that won the Prix Médicis. She is a professor at European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland and the University of Paris VIII, whose center for women's studies, the first in Europe, she founded.
She has published widely, including twenty-three volumes of poems, six books of essays, five plays, and numerous influential articles. She published Voiles (Veils) with Jacques Derrida and her work is often considered deconstructive.
In introducing her Wellek Lecture, subsequently published as Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing, Derrida referred to her as the greatest living writer in his language (French). Cixous wrote a book on Derrida titled Portrait de Jacques Derrida en jeune saint juif (Portrait of Jacques Derrida as a Young Jewish Saint). Her reading of Derrida finds additional layers of meaning at a phonemic rather than strictly lexical level.
In addition to Derrida and Joyce, she has written monographs on the work of the Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector, on Maurice Blanchot, Franz Kafka, Heinrich von Kleist, Michel de Montaigne, Ingeborg Bachmann, Thomas Bernhard, and the Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva.
Along with Luce Irigaray and Julia Kristeva, Cixous is considered one of the mothers of poststructuralist feminist theory. In the 1970s, Cixous began writing about the relationship between sexuality and language. Like other poststructuralist feminist theorists, Cixous believes that our sexuality is directly tied to how we communicate in society.
In 1975, Cixous published her most influential article "Le rire de la méduse" ("The Laugh of the Medusa"), translated and released in English in 1976. She has published over 70 works; her fiction, dramatic writing and poetry, however, are not often read in English.
Photograph: Martin Godwin/Guardian UK
- Nawal El Saadawi (Feminist/Writer/Activist/Physician/Psychiatrist)
- Dr. Stanley Ann Dunham Soetoro (Feminist)
- Germaine Greer (Feminist / Author)
- Adrienne Rich (Poet/Essayist/Feminist)
- Eva Peron (First Lady of Argentina/Feminist/Activist)
- Zainah Anwar (Islamic Feminist)
- Betty Friedan (Writer/Activist/Feminist)
- Elizabeth Cady Stanton (Social Activist/Abolitionist/Feminist)
- Ernestine Rose (Feminist/Abolitionist)
- Geena Davis (Actress/Feminist/Advocate)
- Gloria Steinem (Feminist/Journalist)
- Eve Ensler (Playwright/Performer/Feminist/Activist)
- Isabel Allende (Writer/Feminist)