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700 CHRISTIANITY AND LITERATURE fable,it might at least encourage an imagination of humankind largeenough to acknowledgesome small fragment of the mystery we are. (134-35) In conclusion, Robinson has dealt a serious blow to the assumptions of parascientific literature, both old and new, of the neo-Darwinian schools of thought. The strength of Robinson's work is her ability to expose the lack of scientific methodology these social Darwinists actually make and in doing so she demonstrates the inability of such thought to supply a worldview that accounts for truth, morality,and the mystery of human life. Matthew Barrett The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Ecce Monstrum: Georges Bataille and the Sacrifice ofForm. ByJeremy Biles.New York: Fordham University Press, 2007. ISBN9780823227785. Pp. 372. $70.00. Georges Bataille has long been an important figure in twentieth-century French intellectual culture, though it becomes increasingly unclear what to do with him. His fiction, a high art pornography, does not seem likely to bequeath significant fiction in our day (for which we might be thankful); his essays on, around, and against surrealism, and his work on Lascaux, remain of interest, yet are not regarded as foundational for contemporary reflections on art. His theory of the erotic now seems, in our age, at once unbuttoned and puritan, by turns nasty and prudish. His poems are plain bad. His writings on the sacred, especially its left hand, on sacrifice, and on transgression, still have power to captivate some people in Religious Studies, including Jeremy Biles,though response to them is mostly by way of thinking through what Bataille has said about these things, and of charting their ramifications in art and society at large. Fewpeople want to make large claims for the truth of his theories or to build upon them. Perhaps the works of his that remain strongest, and retain their strangeness, are Inner Experience (1954) and Guilty (1961). It has been usual to speak of Bataille and Blanchot in one breath, although the past two decades have seen some of their readers prizing them apart. Now Blanchot is seen more surely as the greater figure, and the one who has perhaps more diverse futures ahead of him. Doubtless he learned from Bataille,but he made what he learned his own, in part by testing it against ideas he found elsewhere (Holderlin and Hegel, Sade and Lautreamont, Levinas and Derrida). Both Bataille and Blanchot speak of communication and sacrifice in striking ways. In this book, Ecce Monstrum, Bilesinvites us to read Bataille again with a view to what he has to say about "the sacrificeof form:' When form is sacrificed, there is monstrosity; and, we are told, the very concept of monstrosity is itself monstrous, being fraught with BOOK REVIEWS 701 "contradictions, incompletions, and irrational effusions" (63). Of course, one might also say that when form is sacrificed there is a mess, a flawed work, something amateurish. To get out of that difficultywe will probably want to distinguish "form" and "forms:' Certainly we need to know more about "form" from Bilesbefore we can say more. Must one be committed to monstrosity if one breaks form? Harold Bloom, for one, does not say so in his well-known essay "The Breaking of Form" (1979), and we could perhaps get clearer about "form" and "sacrifice"by seeing why not. One might also wonder at Biles' claim for another reason, for if a concept is riven with contradictions it is unlikely to have achieved the status of a concept in the first place. One can have a clear,well-ordered concept of the monstrous, just as one can have a sober account of drunkenness. If Batailles concept of the monstrous is itself monstrous, then we can have no idea what he is talking about. And yet we do. There is no doubt that communication is central to Bataille's thought. It is certainly a fascinating notion, though one that Bataille seems to want to keep mostly to himself. Here is Bileson the topic: "Communication;' Bataille claims, "only takes place between two people who risk themselves:' Communication proceeds by a sacrificial rupture, a putting-at-risk of the individual, made possible by a lacerating sense of guilt...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2056-5666
Print ISSN
0148-3331
Pages
pp. 700-702
Launched on MUSE
2020-02-14
Open Access
No
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