The Highly Accomplished Hélène Cixous
Hélène Cixous was born in Oran, Algeria on 5 June 1937 to Jewish parents, with her mother being of German descent and her father Algerian Sephardic. Hélène Cixous is credited with being a novelist, playwright, poet, philosopher, rhetorician, literary critic, memoirist and feminist. She is regarded as a pivotal figure by her peers and is the author of more than 40 books, as well as over 100 essays. Cixous is well known for her works that critically analyze traditional Western stereotyping of the masculine and feminine gender. Her work is often considered deconstructive.
During her study of English literature in France, Cixous wrote her widely acclaimed doctoral thesis on the Irish author James Joyce, which was translated into English in 1972 with the title of “The Exile of James Joyce”. Hélène Cixous serves as a professor of English literature at the University of Paris VIII which she co-founded in 1967. It is here that she established Europe’s first research institute dedicated to Women’s Studies (Le Centre de Recherches en Etudes Feminines) as well as the first doctoral studies program in that field.
Hélène Cixous’ first novel, “Dedans” (Inside), won her the Prix Médicis in 1969. “Dedans”, the story of a daughter’s obsession with her dead father, was semi-autobiographical. The writing style of Hélène Cixous, with its complex play on words and intense emotions, makes her poetry, dramatic writing and fiction difficult to translate. Due to popular demand, however, a number of her works were translated into English and published in 2006. These include “The Day I Wasn’t There”, her semi-autobiographical account of the birth and death of her first child who was a Down’s Syndrome baby; and “Reveries of the Wild Woman”, a post-colonial reflection on Algerian, French and Jewish identity.
Hélène Cixous has a very wide scope of interests and gets her inspiration from all realms of the academic world. Among others, Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida and Arthur Rimbaud have had an influence on her multi-faceted writing.
Hélène Cixous was appointed by President François Mitterand in 1994 to the esteemed Legion of Honor and in 1998 President Jacques Chirac made her Officer of the National Order of Merit. These awards serve as acknowledgment of her influence on those around her and her significant achievements.