- New Spaces for Literature:Can Xue and Hélène Cixous on Writing
Ouvertes à l'infini de notre éloignement, refermées sur le rien de tangible de l'absence, comment continuer à nous vivre? Ne pas nous laisser encore, env(i)oler dans leur langage. Incorporées de deuil. Il faut bien apprendre à nous parler pour que nous puissions aussi nous embrasser à distance. Sans doute, me retouchant, je me souviens de toi. Mais tant de mots sont prononcés, nous prononcent, qui nous séparent.1
[Open to the infinity of our distance, closed upon the tangible nothing of absence, how can we continue to live ourselves? Let us no longer be rap(tur)ed in their language. Dis/embodied by mourning. We really have to learn to talk to each other in order to be able to embrace us from a distance. Probably, when I re/touch myself, I remember you. But so many words have been pronounced, pronounce us, which separate us.]
How is it possible for Can Xue and Hélène Cixous to speak to each other over the distances that separate them? One, Deng Xiaohua (known by her pen name, , Can Xue), is a Chinese avant-garde author now residing in China as a professional writer (which also means: recognized and paid by the Chinese government).3 As she lived through the Cultural Revolution, her formal education was discontinued after graduating from primary school. The other is a French postmodern feminist from a Jewish-part German, part French-family, grown up in Algeria, with a French elite university education and an international career as writer, dramatist, and theorist in Paris. And yet, across the gap of cultural difference, their writings seem to touch, to resonate with each other at multiple points. Both [End Page 155] authors, in different ways, foreground an experimental writing style. As their texts sit (un)comfortably on the boundary between theory, criticism, and literature, each writer tarries with the question of differences, literary, sexual, and cultural ones. Refusing to take for granted the rules of the game they play, both continuously interrogate the foundations of literature. In a time of split, deconstructed subjects and of ubiquitous textuality, both Can Xue and Hélène Cixous take up the challenge and respond by rethinking the roles of the author and the reader, and the status of their texts in a textualized universe. Thereby, as this essay will show, they open up new spaces for literature, volatile, even unsafe, but also immensely creative ones.
The renegotiation of space is very much in touch with contemporary theoretical preoccupations. Ongoing projects in philosophy, feminist theory, art, physics, or architecture try to rethink spatiality by abandoning Cartesian notions of space. Instead, they attempt to re-theorize space in terms of intensities: it can no longer be thought of as geometrical, gridded, and homogeneous, only varied through objects distributed in it. Rather, it has its own textures, its own local irregularities, densities, curvatures as it interacts with, influences and is impacted by objects that inhabit it.4 As Bernard Cache underlines in Earth Moves-a theoretical approach to space in the context of the architecture of the fold-the perception of a non-Cartesian space goes hand in hand with a poststructuralist notion of subjectivity and new theories of corporeality. This means a break with a set of values through providing new concepts for thinking connections that are in constant movement:
But as personalities dissolve into fluctuations, the singular moves away from the extremities toward the in-between of inflection. The surface of variable curvature of man-as-skin resonates with the fluctuations in tone of an amortized Earth. […] Variation in curvature, which is nonoptimizable, is where the most is not worth more than the least, but is worth something in the inflected passage from the more to the less.5
This interest in a different conception of space is shared by poststructuralist theories of the text. Thinkers such as Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, or Jean-Luc Nancy attempt to free literature from its specular functionalization in relation with "reality," from its conceptualization in terms of mimesis, didactic function, or fantasmatic escape. At...