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  • Klossowski, Deleuze, and Orthodoxy
  • Eleanor Kaufman (bio)

Among the many strange and wonderful things to be found there, Pierre Klossowski's oeuvre is a preeminent illustration of what divides univocity and equivocity and therefore serves as one of the twentieth century's most instructive models for thinking the complexity of the dialectic. Univocity and equivocity are significant both in their roots in Scholastic philosophy, as the idea that Being is expressed in either one or several senses, and as belonging to a longstanding framework that helps demarcate the differences, nuanced yet significant, among members of the extraordinary generation of French intellectuals of which Klossowski was a part. Thus, these terms, apart from their theological and philosophical import, will serve as a heuristic for renarrating points of filiation and divergence among a series of prominent French thinkers, primarily Bataille, Klossowski, and Deleuze, but also extending backward to Sartre and forward to Badiou to frame the series. I will approach this in segmented fashion, first opposing Bataille's dialectic of transgression to Klossowski's more univocal method of disjunctive synthesis. When juxtaposed with Deleuze's Spinozist affirmation of univocity, however, Klossowski would seem to be more on the side of the equivocal. Whereas Deleuze criticizes the realm between the univocal and the equivocal as the lukewarm space of the analogical, my contention is that this middle realm allows for a space of movement and reversal that escapes the pitfalls Deleuze locates in the dialectic, and does so without a strict adherence to Spinozist univocity. Whereas Bataille and Deleuze remain closer to Klossowski in the tenor of their thought, I will nonetheless suggest in conclusion that Sartre and Badiou are actually closer to Klossowski on a formal level, in that each poses a similarly analogical challenge to the thought of the dialectic.

For many reasons Bataille and Klossowski can be paired together. They were contemporaries, both born around the turn of the century, both writing in a variety of literary and philosophical genres, including pornographic or semi-pornographic fiction, and working outside the academy. Both wrote studies of Nietzsche, of Sade, and radical economic treatises. They were friends and fellow members in the late 1930s of the College of Sociology, which was modeled after a secret society, the members taking great interest in such topics as sacrifice and headlessness. Bataille and Klossowski wrote about each other. Both were at different points obsessed with Roman Catholicism, both at different points prepared to enter monastic orders, both in different fashions fell away. As might easily be imagined, their fiction is an outrageous mixture of the sacred and the profane, including sexual encounters and other desecrations staged at church alters and the like. Both work in that realm where pornography and theology come together. Yet while the more familiar Bataille uses pornography toward transgressive aims, the lesser-known Klossowski uses a more nuanced and interesting mechanism of boredom to elaborate an intrinsically disjunctive structure.

Even boredom, for Bataille, partakes of the transgressive. In his novella The Story of the Eye, the narrator describes offhandedly how he and his companion Simone have just found their friend Marcelle's body. She has hung herself. The narrator and Simone [End Page 47] take the body down and have sex for the first time next to it. Then the narrator describes the boredom that ensues even in the face of death: "We were perfectly calm, all three of us, and that was the most hopeless part of it. Any boredom in the world is linked, for me, to that moment and, above all, to an obstacle as ridiculous as death. But that won't prevent me from thinking back to that time with no revulsion and even with a sense of complicity. Basically, the lack of excitement made everything far more absurd, and thus Marcelle was closer to me dead than in her lifetime, inasmuch as absurd existence, so I imagine, has all the prerogatives" [59–60]. This is actually an unusually meditative moment in Bataille's story of murder, priests, bullfights, and constant sex.1 Here his narrator links boredom to death, and to a reflection on the absurd boundary between life and death. But by commenting on boredom...


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