Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Literature: Georges Bataille (1897-1962)

Date Of Birth: September 10, 1897, Billom, Puy-de-Dôme (Auvergne), France
Date Of Death: July 9, 1962, Paris, France

Bataille was initially considered priesthood and went to a Catholic seminary but renounced his faith in 1922.
He attended the École des Chartes in Paris and graduated in February 1922.
Bataille is often referred to, interchangeably, as an archivist and a librarian. While it is true that he worked at the Bibliothèque Nationale, his work there was with medallion collections (he also published scholarly articles on numismatics), and his thesis at the École des Chartes was a critical edition of the medieval manuscript L’Ordre de chevalerie which he produced directly by classifying the eight manuscripts from which he reconstructed the poem. After graduating he moved to the School of Advanced Spanish Studies in Madrid.

Founder of several journals and literary groups, Bataille is the author of an oeuvre both abundant and diverse: readings, poems, essays on innumerable subjects (on the mysticism of economy, in passing of poetry, philosophy, the arts, eroticism). He sometimes published under pseudonyms, and some of his publications were banned. He was relatively ignored during his lifetime and scorned by contemporaries such as Jean-Paul Sartre as an advocate of mysticism, but after his death had considerable influence on authors such as Michel Foucault, Philippe Sollers and Jacques Derrida, all of whom were affiliated with the Tel Quel journal.
His influence is felt in the work of Jean Baudrillard, as well as in the psychoanalytic theories of Jacques Lacan.

Initially attracted to Surrealism, Bataille quickly fell out with its founder André Breton, although Bataille and the Surrealists resumed cautiously cordial relations after World War II. Bataille was a member of the extremely influential College of Sociology in France between World War I and World War II. The College of Sociology was also comprised of several renegade surrealists. He was heavily influenced by Hegel, Freud, Marx, Marcel Mauss, the Marquis de Sade, Alexandre Kojève and Friedrich Nietzsche, the last of whom he defended in a notable essay against appropriation by the Nazis.

Fascinated by human sacrifice, he founded a secret society, Acéphale, the symbol of which was a decapitated man. According to legend, Bataille and the other members of Acéphale each agreed to be the sacrificial victim as an inauguration; none of them would agree to be the executioner. An indemnity was offered for an executioner, but none was found before the dissolution of Acéphale shortly before the war. The group also published an eponymous review, concerned with Nietzsche's philosophy, and which attempted to think what Jacques Derrida has called an "anti-sovereignty".
Bataille thus collaborated with André Masson, Pierre Klossowski, Roger Caillois, Jules Monnerot, Jean Rollin and Jean Wahl.

Bataille drew from diverse influences and used diverse modes of discourse to create his work. His novel Story of the Eye, published under the pseudonym Lord Auch (literally, Lord "to the shithouse" — "auch" being slang for telling somebody off by sending them to the toilet), was initially read as pure pornography, while interpretation of the work has gradually matured to reveal the considerable philosophical and emotional depth that is characteristic of other writers who have been categorized within "literature of transgression." The imagery of the novel is built upon a series of metaphors which in turn refer to philosophical constructs developed in his work: the eye, the egg, the sun, the earth, the testicle. Other famous novels include the posthumous My Mother (which would become the basis of Ma mère, a French movie written and directed by Christophe Honoré) and The Blue of Noon.

The latter, with its necrophilic and political tendencies, its autobiographical or testimonial undertones, and its philosophical moments turns Story of the Eye on its head, providing a much darker and bleaker treatment of contemporary historical reality.

Bataille was also a philosopher (though he renounced this title), but for many, like Sartre, his philosophical claims bordered on atheist mysticism. During World War Two, and influenced by Kojève's reading of Hegel, and by Nietzsche, he wrote a Summa Atheologica (the title parallels Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica) which comprises his works "Inner Experience," "Guilty," and "On Nietzsche." After the war he composed his "The Accursed Share", and founded the influential journal "Critique". His singular conception of "sovereignty" (which may be described as "anti-sovereignty") was discussed by Jacques Derrida, Giorgio Agamben, Jean-Luc Nancy and others.

Bataille's first marriage was to actress Silvia Maklès; they divorced in 1934, and she later married the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. Bataille also had a liaison with Colette Peignot, who died in 1938. In 1946 Bataille married Diane de Beauharnais, with whom he had a daughter.
In the same year he founded one of the most respected scholarly journals in France, “Critique”.

After the war Bataille was unemployed for a long time and his financial situation was rapaidly going downhill. In 1947 he lectured at the Collegè Philosophique and edited a series of books for the publishers Minuit. From 1949 to 1951 he worked as a librarian in Carpentras in Provence, and from 1951 in Orléans. In 1961 Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst and Juan Miro arranged an auction of paintings to help him in his difficulties. Bataille died in Paris on July 8, 1962.
At that time he was ready to return back to the Bibliothèque Nationale.

  • Histoire De L'oeil, 1928 (Story Of The Eye) (under pseudonym of Lord Auch)
  • L'anus Solaire, 1931
  • Le Bleu Du Ciel, 1935 (Blue Of Noon)
  • Sacrifices, 1936
  • Madame Edwarda, 1937 (under pseudonym of Pierre Angélique)
  • L' Expérience Intérieure, 1943 (Inner Experience)
  • Le Coupable, 1944 (The Guilty)
  • Dirty, 1945
  • Sur Nietzsche, 1945 (On Nietzsche)
  • L'Orestie, 1945
  • Dianus, 1947
  • L'Alleluiah, 1947
  • La Haine De La Poésie, 1947
  • La Part Maudite, 1949 (The Accursed Share)
  • Histoire Des Rats, 1948
  • Théorie De La Religion, 1948 (Theory Of Religion)
  • Éponine, 1949
  • L'Abbé C, 1950
  • Somme athéologique I-II, 1954-61
  • Lascaux, Ou, La Naissance De l'art, 1955 (Lascaux; Or, The Birth Of Art)
  • Manet, 1955
  • L'Érotisme Ou La Muse En Question De L'être, 1957 (Eroticism: Death And Sensuality)
  • La Littérature Et Le Mal, 1957 (Literature And Evil)
  • Les Larmes D'éros, 1961 (The Tears Of Eros)
  • L'Impossible, 1962. (The Impossible)
  • Le Petit, 1963
  • Gilles De Rais, 1965 (The Trial Of Gilles De Rais)
  • Ma Mère, 1966 (My Mother)
  • La notion De Dépense, 1967
  • Le Mort, 1967 (The Dead Man)
  • La Pratique De La Joie Avant La Mort, 1967
  • L'Archangélique, 1967 Documents, 1968
  • Œuvres complètes, 1970-88 (12 vols.)
    • Volume 1: Premiers Ecrits, 1922-1940: Histoire De L'œil - L'Anus Solaire - Sacrifices - Articles.
    • Volume 2: Écrits Posthumes, 1922-1940
    • Volume 3: Œuvres Littéraires: Madame Edwarda - Le Petit - L'Archangélique - L'Impossible - La Scissiparité - L'Abbé C. - L'être Différencié N'est Rien - Le Bleu Du Ciel.
    • Volume 4: Œuvres Littéraires Posthumes: Poèmes - Le Mort - Julie - La Maison Brûlée - La Tombe De Louis XXX - Divinus Deus - Ébauches.
    • Volume 5: La Somme Athéologique I: L'Expérience Intérieure - Méthode De Méditation - Post-Scriptum 1953 - Le Coupable - L'Alleluiah.
    • Volume 6: La Somme Athéologique II: Sur Nietzsche - Mémorandum - Annexes.
    • Volume 7: L'économie A La Mesure De L'univers - La Part Maudite - La Limite De L'utile (Fragments) - Théorie De La Religion - Conférences 1947-1948 - Annexes.
    • Volume 8: L'Histoire De L'érotisme - Le Surréalisme Au Jour Le Jour - Conférences 1951-1953 - La Souveraineté - Annexes.
    • Volume 9: Lascaux, Ou La Naissance De L’art - Manet - La Littérature Et Le Mal - Annexes
    • Volume 10: L’érotisme - Le Procès De Gilles De Rais - Les Larmes d’Eros
    • Volume 11: Articles I, 1944-1949
    • Volume 12: Articles II, 1950-1961

  • Le Collège De Sociologie (1937-1939), 1979 - The College Of Sociology (1937-1939)

Bataille on

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