Promised Cities

A seminar by Hélène Cixous about displacement, exile, and the relation of art and literature to cities and their destruction


Fields of Knowledge
  • Memory
  • Performance
  • Philosophy / Theory

Organizing Institutions



Aaron Levy, Jean-Michel Rabaté


British Council USA, "Mission du livre" program of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Women's Studies / The Alice Paul Center for Research on Women and Gender, University of Pennsylvania


Rita Barnard

Opens to public





4017 Walnut St.
Philadelphia, PA 19104


75% Formal - 25% Informal

Slought is pleased to announce a special appearance in the United States by the poet, playwright, and philosopher Hélène Cixous. Her public seminar at Slought is entitled "Cities," and will take place on Saturday, October 8th, 2005 at 5pm. A reception will follow from 6:30-8:30pm, on the occassion of a concurrent exhibition in the gallery by British visual artist Maria Chevska and the release of her new book in collaboration with Helene Cixous (Black Dog Publishing, 2005).

The proceedings will interest a broad segment of arts, academic and psychoanalytic communities throughout the Northeast and will be subsequently published by Slought as "Ex-Cities." The publication arises from a shared concern for displacement and exile by Hélène Cixous and British artist Maria Chevska. Visual documentation of "Vera's Room," Maria Chevska's installation at Slought, is interspersed alongside Cixous' text, which explores the relation of art and literature to cities and their destruction. This bilingual publication (French/ English) includes a companion audio CD featuring her recorded seminar, and a foreword by Eric Prenowitz.

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As an author of fiction, a playwright, a professor, a theorist and a critic, Hélène Cixous (b. 1937 in Oran, Algeria) has been a central figure in the profound reassessment of prevailing intellectual paradigms that has swept through virtually every domain of the humanities since the 1960s. Cixous is Emeritus Professor at the University of Paris 8, where she founded France's first Women's Studies doctoral program in 1974. Her seminar has been co-sponsored by the Collège International de Philosophie since 1984. She is also Honorary Professor at the Universities of Sussex and Cardiff. She has also been working since 1984 on several theater productions directed by Ariane Mnouchkine with "Le Théâtre du Soleil" in Vincennes.

She was one of the founding members of the University of Vincennes (Paris VIII) in 1968, where she created the Doctorate in Women's Studies in 1974. After completing a thesis on James Joyce in 1968, she specialized in English literature. With Michel Foucault, she created the Group Information-Jail and worked with Jacques Derrida at the Collège International de Philosophie in Paris.

Her books available in English translation include: The Third Body (Hydra Books/Northwestern University Press, 1999), Firstdays of the Year (University of Minnesota Press, 1999), Rootprints (London : Routledge, 1997), The Terrible but unfinished Story of Norodom Sihanouk, King of Cambodia (University of Nebraska Press, 1994), The Name of Oedipus (University of Michigan Press, 1991), Stigmata (London : Routledge, 1998), The Exile of James Joyce (John Calder, 1976), and many others. Her most recent books include Veils (with Jacques Derrida; 2001), Selected Plays of Hélène Cixous (2003), Portrait of Jacques Derrida as a Young Jewish Saint (2004), The Writing Notebooks of Hélène Cixous (2004/06), Dream I Tell You (2006), Reveries of the Wild Woman (2006) and The Day I Wasn't There (2006).

"If biography means the writing of (a) life, if it means life in writing, then all of Hélène Cixous' writing is biographical. Indeed doubly autobiographical: not just the writing of the self, an author's written account of her life, but life itself writing itself as it lives, such that the reader can never separate the written from the lived, the life written from the writing of life. Hélène Cixous' dates, for example, have all been fictionalized in her writing: even when they seem to correspond to dates in her personal history ("She was born in...," etc.), they have invariably been changed, transmuted into bits of text, poems, and offered up to dissemination. Her family history too, her father, her mother, her brother, her cats and dogs, her friend Jacques Derrida, even certain flowers, have all gained new lives in and as literature through her writing."

-- Eric Prenowitz

"[In this seminar and publication, Hélène Cixous] takes displacement and exile as points of departure in exploring the relation of art and literature to cities and their destruction. We can begin to read this meditation by remembering that cities are more than just habitats or geographical entities. They extend beyond networks of communication, commerce, sociality, or politics. Cities often exist in the form of memories and aspirations, and these cities are no less real despite their intangible nature. We always carry with us the memories of the cities that we have lived in or lost, abandoned or destroyed. These memories permit us to rebuild them from their ruins; we build new cities upon the memories of others."

-- Aaron Levy

"I have known for a long time that one does not go anywhere. it is the cities or the countries that come or do not come to you. Cities are fateful letters. They only arrive lost. They only arrive posthumously."

"The destruction of the city. Is it a good thing is it a bad thing? It is a bad thing which causes an art. A sorrow that causes. Literature is a field of destruction a field in ruins, the song of ruins, the archive song of ruins."

-- Hélène Cixous

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Poet, playwright and philosopher Hélène Cixous explores the relation of art and literature to cities and their destruction in this bilingual collaboration with artist Maria Chevska and her installation Vera's Room.

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