By Bakhtin, Mikhail Mikhaĭlovich; Wussow, Helen; Hohne, Karen Ann; Bakhtin, M
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And she's not deadly. She's beautiful and she's laughing. "Laughter," Bakhtin writes, "demolishes fear and piety before an object" ("Epic and Novel," 23). What I have tried to argue here is that the Medusa is not truly laughing, not in the Bakhtinian sense, for the Medusa's laughter replaces whatever myth it subverts with another version of the same pious, perhaps even frightening, image. According to the myth, the monster is deadly. Merely to look upon her reduces the observer to silence, turns him to stone.
Their laughter is the "popular corrective" that prevents us from taking them too seriously. Bakhtin's description of the terracotta figurines constitutes a defense of ugliness or deformity —the grotesque —against what he considers to be the lifeless quality, the absolute stasis, of the classical aes- "The Locus for the Other" 13 thetic. It is a mark, I think, of our implicit adherence to this aesthetic that we cannot even entertain the notion that Bakhtin's description of the hags is positive. I would suggest that age and ugliness become undesirable attributes through our eyes, more than through his.
In reclaiming the body through language, women's writing visits yet again the scene of a violent and shattering confrontation. As Cixous sets out to write femininity, in open defiance of the way in which Freud and other fathers have written it, she insists on the trans- 14 Lisa Gasbarrone gressive nature of her undertaking. "The Dark Continent," she declares, "is neither dark nor unexplorable" (255). Yet this continent, once illuminated through feminine ecriture, looks like a rather familiar place.