Traces of a Half-Forgotten Dog: Suffering and Animal Humanity in Hélène Cixous' Algerian Scenes

Hélène Cixous' engagement with animals is a significant but neglected aspect of her work. In this article I trace one specific character among her animals, Fips, a dog she had when she was living in Algiers during the late 1940s. By reflecting on this figure, I outline the way the dehumanising...

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Bibliographic Details
Published in:Literature and theology
Main Author: Andersson, Helen 1959-
Format: Electronic Article
Language:English
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Published: Oxford Univ. Press [2017]
In:Literature and theology
Year: 2017, Volume: 31, Issue: 4, Pages: 420-436
Online Access: Volltext (Resolving-System)
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Summary:Hélène Cixous' engagement with animals is a significant but neglected aspect of her work. In this article I trace one specific character among her animals, Fips, a dog she had when she was living in Algiers during the late 1940s. By reflecting on this figure, I outline the way the dehumanising logic of colonialism and anti-Semitism are critiqued by Cixous. I lift up her themes of relationality and corporeality as constructive for animal studies. Taking the work of Jacques Derrida as a starting point, the article shows how Cixous' primal encounter with Fips produces a wound that, belatedly, ruptures the barriers between herself and this dog; its dehiscence reveals Fips' 'profound animal humanity' generated by shared suffering, finitude, and love. The lesson Cixous learns from revivifying the memory of this dog is, I suggest, how to become more human. The 'humanity' of the dog is the capacity to see and indeed love outside preconceived ideas: 'Perhaps the irony is that we are never more human than when we are dogs.' Becoming more human is an assault on the borders of racialised exclusion and a challenge to the false humanism of the colonial project.
ISSN:1477-4623
Contains:Enthalten in: Literature and theology
Persistent identifiers:DOI: 10.1093/litthe/frx030