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diacritics 35.1 (2005) 136-146

The Christian Bain de Diane, or the Stakes of an Ambiguous Paratext
Patrick Amstutz
Translated by Gerald Moore

Upon its publication, Le bain de Diane elicited few reactions on the part of criticism. Klossowski's name was still a secret and, despite its note among writers such as Bataille, Beauvoir, Camus, Parain, and Sartre and their public following, the number of readers to have read this fifth work remained confined to those already familiar with Klossow-ski the essayist (Sade mon prochain, Méditations bibliques de Hamann), or the novelist (La vocation suspendue, Roberte, ce soir). The discreet silence that characterized the first reception of Le bain de Diane would last until the end of the seventies, despite a reedition in 1972 by the same publisher. During this time three important moments made Le bain de Diane resurface at the heart of the literary world: first, in fictional form, thanks to a subtle but explicit homage paid by Henri Thomas [Le promontoire]; second, in the form of a penetrating commentary article by Michel Foucault ["La prose d'Actéon"], and finally, at the hands of René Micha and Catherine Backès-Clément, key contributors to the issue that the review L'Arc dedicated to the writer. The reedition of Le bain de Diane by Gallimard1 would significantly relaunch interest in this work which, one comes increasingly to realize, is a major text in the Klossowskian oeuvre: offering a reflection on the image and writing, it was Gilles Quinsat who would open this new period of critical reception.

An Uncertain Identity

Quinsat emphasizes the "series of 'tableaux' that glazes Le Bain de Diane" in accordance with a "circular" descriptive movement, he says, "from vision to commentary, attributed to the deferral without end of signs, and which feeds the entire work of Pierre Klossowski" [95]. And if he borrows the term "exegesis" from Foucault to describe the genre of the work, he immediately associates it with that of "narrative." A quarter of a century earlier, a commentary in the new Nouvelle revue française had already underlined the "disconcerting" character of Klossowski's book, by accentuating not only the strangeness of its thematic, but also the difficulties posed by the uncertainty of its generic belonging (which is echoed by the absent mention of a paratext): the critic, hesitating, suggested somewhat confusedly a typological kinship with philosophical commentary, theological scholasticism, prose poetry, series of paintings, historical narrative and even the analysis of myths [Amer 144]. In fact, this mythological "reverie," neither an essay nor a narrative, is, from this point of view, a typically Klossowskian [End Page 136] book, as Ian James has more recently reminded us [143]. Le bain de Diane mixes erudite commentary and narrative discourse so well that it entices its commentators into the traps of scholarly, historical, and philological annotation. Yet this would be to forget, as Maurice Blanchot has observed [92–94], that the written oeuvre of Klossowski belongs fully to the field of literature, even more so than to those of philosophy, theology, or psychoanalysis.

When it comes to discerning the literariness of this literary object, which the different paratextual and intertextual stakes and levels underline, the principal difficulty consists in not losing oneself in a mythological labyrinth and innumerable variants of the cult of Artemis, which was one of the most significant, oldest, and popular cults of the Greco-Roman era and which plunges into a world on whose complexity historians and philologists have insisted on many occasions. The study of Klossowski's sources could lead one through multiple disciplines (philology, mythography, psychoanalysis, the history of religions, history of art, French literature—all centuries cobbled together, and so on) to overly vast inquiries: the goddess "of a thousand names" assumes a properly vertiginous semiotic richness, and the cult of Artemis, before being linked to that of Apollo, stretches back to time immemorial where, behind Artemis, can be glimpsed the Asiatic figure of a Great Mother Goddess, whose...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6539
Print ISSN
0300-7162
Pages
pp. 136-146
Launched on MUSE
2007-04-06
Open Access
No
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