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Hélène Cixous's Autre Bisexualité and the Eternal Feminine in the works of Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Laura Kirkley



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


This article analyses the creative engagement of the Irish-language poet, Ni Dhomhnaill, with Cixous's ecriture feminine. Ni Dhomhnaill translates Cixousian images and concepts into her texts, returning on several occasions to the concept of l'autre bisexualite (the other bisexuality). Cixous uses this concept to rehabilitate - and celebrate - what she designates as 'the feminine', the alterity within and outside the self. For both writers, this alterity comprehends marginalised cultures as well as femininity. Both bring anti-essentialist convictions to their views of gender and cultural identity, but their respective poetics are born of shared preoccupations with biblical and mythological figures and narratives often implicated in essentialism. Ni Dhomhnaill connects these archetypal figures with the cultural realities of postcolonial Ireland. I argue that she draws on the works of Cixous to connect the indigenous Irish language and culture with the rehabilitation of femininity. But whereas, in Cixousian texts, 'femininity' eludes concrete definitions and stable meaning, in the works of Ni Dhomhnaill, it often signifies an authentic pre-colonial culture that is ripe for re-discovery in postcolonial Ireland. Ni Dhomhnaill simultaneously celebrates this culture and acknowledges its embeddedness in a Celtic patriarchy that her Cixousian trops work to undercut.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Kirkley L

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Women

Year: 2013

Volume: 24

Issue: 4

Pages: 315-336

Online publication date: 18/12/2013

Date deposited: 11/09/2013

ISSN (print): 0957-4042

ISSN (electronic): 1470-1367

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/09574042.2013.857964


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