Hélène Cixous’s „The Exile of James Joyce”: A Biographical Limit Case
This article examines Hélène Cixous’s biographical monograph The Exile of James Joyce as a limit case of biographical praxis. Joyce’s biography is read in the context of Cixous’s own evolving personal motif of exile, revealing her autobiographical investment in becoming a writer through reading Joyce. She pushes the boundaries of the biographical genre at the intersections of autobiography, literary criticism, and biography, defying simple generic classifications and exposing the limits of conventional demarcations between the artist, the work, the biographer, and the critic. As a result, the text becomes a creative-interpretive hybrid project, where the biographical code has been displaced by focus on epistemological, psychological, and textual problems implicit in the relationship between the biographer and the biographical subject. Her approach invites us to consider the following questions: How does she rewrite Joyce through her own multiple experiences of exile that she also shares with Jacques Derrida? What difference does gender make in the construction of the biographical subject as the great modernist “genius”? How does gender marginalization impact her authority as a biographer? The discussion is also framed through some larger questions concerning the aesthetic, epistemological, ethical, and political role of biography in approaching modernist literature and culture: Is biography an art or a craft? What kind of knowledge does biography generate? How far is biography a form of discursive violence and voyeurism? How can attention to affect and intimacy offer new insights into the aesthetics of the biographical genre?