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Ecce Monstrum

Georges Bataille and the Sacrifice of Form

Jeremy Biles

Publication Year: 2007

In the 1930s, Georges Bataille proclaimed a ferociously religioussensibility characterized by simultaneous ecstasy and horror. Ecce Monstrum investigates the content and implications of this religious sensibility by examining Bataille's insistent linking of monstrosity and the sacred. Extending and sometimes challenging major interpretations of Bataille by thinkers like Denis Hollier and Rosalind Krauss the book reveals how his writings betray the monstrous marks of the affective and intellectual contradictions he seeks to produce in his readers. Charting a new approach to recent debates concerning Bataille's formulation of the informe (formless), the author demonstrates that the motif of monstrosity is keyed to Bataille's notion of sacrifice--an operation that ruptures the integrality of the individual form. Bataille enacts a monstrousmode of reading and writing in his approaches to other thinkers and artists--a mode that is at once agonistic and intimate. Ecce Monstrum examines this monstrous mode of reading and writing through investigations of Bataille's sacrificialinterpretations of Kojve's Hegel and Friedrich Nietzsche; his contentious relationship with Simone Weil and its implications for his mystical and writing practices; his fraught affiliation with surrealist Andr Breton and his attempt to displace surrealism with hyperchristianity; and his peculiar relations to artist Hans Bellmer, whose work evokes Bataille's religious sensibility.With its wide-ranging analyses, this book offers insights of interest to scholars of religion, philosophers, art historians, and students of French intellectual history and early modernism.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. ix-

List of Figures

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pp. xi-

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-

This book began as a doctoral dissertation at the University of Chicago Divinity School. During my time at the Divinity School, I received advice and support from numerous friends and professors. I am particularly grateful to the three members of the faculty who together made up a dissertation...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-8

In the 1930s, French writer Georges Bataille (1897–1962) established a secret society known as Acephale. In the journal by the same name that provided the group’s public facade, Bataille sets the mood for this obscure ‘‘headless’’ organization, declaring with imperative exigency, ‘‘WE ARE...

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Chapter 1: Ecstatic and Intolerable: The Provocations of Friendship

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pp. 9-35

Georges Bataille died in 1962, a year after completing his last book, The Tears of Eros, a lavishly illustrated essay on the history of eroticism. This book represents a visual and textual record of this writer’s final days; the inevitability of death that had terrified and elated Bataille throughout his...

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Chapter 2: Nietzsche Slain

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pp. 36-71

It was in 1923, at about the age of twenty-five, that Georges Bataille first read Friedrich Nietzsche. He cites this encounter as a decisive event in his life,1 one that infuses his philosophical inquiries with increased passion and fuels his explorations into the limits of human existence. In the years following...

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Chapter 3: The Labyrinth: Toward Bataille’s ‘‘Extremist Surrealism’’

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pp. 72-94

Upon a first reading, Bataille’s late book Lascaux, or The Birth of Art1 appears straightforward enough. Published in 1955 as part of the mainstream ‘‘Great Centuries of Painting’’ series by the Skira Color Studio, the text of this book is a sustained exposition of the conditions under...

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Chapter 4: The Cross: Simone Weil’s Hyperchristianity

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pp. 95-123

Simone Weil was a familiar of caves and labyrinths, at least in her writings. For example, Weil identifies with Antigone, the tragic figure who takes her own life within the hollow of a cave as a show of impassioned obedience to divine law.1 Weil’s theological writings are also markedly inflected by Platonic...

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Chapter 5: The Wounded Hands of Bataille: Hans Bellmer, Bataille, and the Art of Monstrosity

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pp. 124-162

Among the artistic depictions of the crucified Christ at Golgotha, Matthias Grunewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece (1515) remains among the most remarkable for its almost photographic portrayal of divine abjection (figure 2).1 To the right of the crucified Christ, supported by a sympathetic witness,2 is a...

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Conclusion: Bataillean Meditations

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pp. 163-170

In book 4 of his Generation of Animals, Aristotle remarks upon the conditions that define monstrosity: ‘‘Anyone who does not take after his parents is really in a way a monstrosity [teras], since in these cases Nature has in a way strayed from the generic type.’’1 Bataille would agree with the letter, if...

Notes

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pp. 171-232

Bibliography

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pp. 233-242

Index

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pp. 243-249


E-ISBN-13: 9780823247752
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823227785
Print-ISBN-10: 0823227782

Page Count: 372
Publication Year: 2007