The Colonial Outsider: “Malgérie” in Hélène Cixous’s Les rêveries de la femme sauvage

Jennifer YeeUniversity of Newcastle
Vol. 20, No. 2 (Fall 2001), 189-200

This article discusses Hélène Cixous’s first novel to deal with her childhood experiences in Algeria, Les rêveries de la femme sauvage (2000), which evokes the predicament of Algerian Jews as colonial outsiders, a third party who is neither the colonized nor the colonizer but implicated in the colonial situation. The novel uses playful language and experimental form, in particular striking phonemic play and the creation of mot-valises with multiple meanings and resonances, which Yee argues accounts for the comparative neglect of Cixous’s fiction by Anglo-American scholars. Stepping out of the frame of the binary colonial relationship, the child-narrator is able to see through the ideological program of the French colonial school, and along with it, the whole institution of l’Algériefrançaise, a form of madness to which she alone seems immune. Like Cixous’s feminist theory, this novel can be understood as part of an ongoing project to break away from the shackles of a binary opposition. This fascinating essay discloses the intricacy with which semantic playfulness, in Cixous’s hands, simultaneously provides a scathing critique of colonialist and patriarchal normative assumptions.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]