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Volume 19, Number 1 (1994)

The Inscription of "Feminine Jouissance" in Elizabeth Smart's By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept

  • Denise Adele Heaps
May 22, 2008


Hélène Cixous asks "What is feminine jouissance?" and Elizabeth Smart's By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept provides a possible answer to this question. In her powerful representation of the feminine libidinal economy, Smart engages the same terms and metaphors as Cixous: a bisexual articulation of desire; the reclamation of water as a metaphor for sexual bliss; and adulterous love as a war against conventional morality, society, and religion. Smart, through her use of Judaeo-Christian metaphors and allusions, first installs binary and borderline definitions of women which condemn her speaking/writing/sexually engaged subject to the negative terms of these borders, and then partially exculpates and extricates her subject by subverting and deconstructing these definitions. However, feminist readings of the text are problematic, given that one of the possible costs of female desire (as delineated in Smart's text) is the oppression of another woman's desire.