An accompaniment to Cixous
Rootprints, translated by Eric Prenowitz is a compilation of works by numerous writers including Hélène Cixous, Mireille Calle Gruber, and Jacques Derrida. The book explores the world of Cixous through interviews, articles and essays, by examining her approach to fiction, feminism and literary theory. Indeed, the book can be considered an exploration into Cixous’s view on writing as “a place of tension, reversibility and meaning” (141). The first half of the book is comprised of an interview between Calle-Gruber and Cixous with selected excerpts from Cixous’s notebook located in boxes throughout. With its medley of snapshot entries into her literary thinking, the latter part of the book is a compilation of articles written by Calle-Gruber as well as Jacques Derrida on Cixous and vice versa; on the intersection of art, history, language and feminism. By the end of Rootprints, one begins to connect with Cixous through her reflections on her family photographs, of which offer insight into Cixous’s writing and familial experiences.
While known for being a literary theorist and feminist writer, Cixous’s interview by French author Mireille Calle-Gruber is particularly interesting with regards to the discussion about her passion for the theater and in which she describes the audience as “implicated actively present in the space of language”(101) and “the reflexive self of all characters” (102). In the interview section, both authors are distinguished by their initials as well as different fonts of which Calle Gruber’s font is smaller than Cixous’s (which may inaccurately portray her as an inferior or secondary thinker to Cixous). Calle-Gruber breaks with the traditional placid question-answer practices and instead engages dynamically in dialogue, establishing her presence in the book as a vital and critical voice towards understanding literary theory and Cixous’s thinking. While Rootprints is not the book with which to introduce Cixous’s works as it does not capture the beauty and power of her writing and theory, Calle Gruber’s analysis in the section titled, “Portrait of the writing” does bring clarity to the complexity of Cixous’s literary theory. Indeed the arrangement of the book could be better edited to place “Portrait of writing” at the beginning of the book, followed with the section on photographs and concluding with the interview.
Rootprints is best suited for those who have had prior exposure to Cixous or those in advanced literature studies including women studies and linguistics. I highly recommended to read Rootprints as an accompaniment to any Cixous work.