Saints of the Impossible

Saints of the Impossible: Bataille, Weil, and the Politics of the Sacred

Alexander Irwin
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 288
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttss64
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  • Book Info
    Saints of the Impossible
    Book Description:

    Saints of the Impossible provides the first in-depth comparison of Bataille’s and Weil’s thought, showing how an exploration of their relationship reveals new facets of the achievements of two of the twentieth century’s leading intellectual figures, and raises far-reaching questions about literary practice, politics, and religion.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9342-9
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction THE SACRED, TRANSGRESSION, AND THE POLITICS OF DESPAIR
    (pp. xi-xxviii)

    IN A PIVOTAL SCENE of Georges Bataille’s 1935 novelLe Bleu du ciel,the narrator, Henri Troppmann, physically and mentally exhausted by orgies of alcohol, sex, and tearful self-pity, finds himself an unwilling participant in a discussion of the political responsibility of intellectuals. The conversation takes place in the Paris apartment of Louise Lazare, a young revolutionary activist to whom Troppmann feels mysteriously drawn despite her physical ugliness. Wandering in a state of despair and suffering from a massive hangover, Troppmann has called on Lazare on an impulse. He finds her in the company of her stepfather, Antoine Melou, a...

  6. Chapter One BATAILLE’S SACRIFICE Mutilation, Revolution, and the Death of God
    (pp. 1-40)

    TO INVESTIGATE THE POLITICS of sainthood in Georges Bataille and Simone Weil, one could choose no more appropriate starting point than the concept of sacrifice. In Bataille’s writing, sacrifice is a ubiquitous motif, ambiguously bridging the domains of religion, art, eroticism, and politics. Yet precisely because of its centrality, the Bataillean theory of sacrifice has given rise to contradictory evaluations. Some commentators have praised the sophistication of Bataille’s politics of sacrifice and the impossible.¹ Others have critiqued Bataille’s sacrificial theories as harboring a nostalgia for primal unity linked to fascism.² Jean–Luc Nancy has argued that in Bataille’s work, a...

  7. Chapter Two TRANSFORMING THE WARRIOR’S SOUL Simone Weil’s Poetics of Force
    (pp. 41-81)

    IF GEORGES BATAiLLE’s WRITING and life in the 1930s were shaped by figures of sacred violence, Simone Weil’s work was informed by the idea of force. The concept of force traverses Weil’s authorship, from the political writings of her early career to the mystical journals of her last years in New York and London. In a real sense, in Weil’s view, force defines the human condition. Yet force itself is far from easy to define, and Weil’s use of the term in disparate settings can lead to perplexity. A careful analysis of the notion of force is vital in order...

  8. Chapter Three IF REVOLUTION IS A SICKNESS Politics and Necrophilia in Le Bleu du ciel
    (pp. 82-123)

    IN THE NOVEMBER 1933 ISSUE of the dissident leftist journalLa Critique sociale,Georges Bataille published a flatteringcompte-renduof André Malraux’sLa Condition humaine.Like many of his contemporarics, Bataille recognized in Malraux’s novel an archetypal example of politically conscious fiction. Bataille also found inLa Condition humainesupport for controversial economic and political theories he had been developing in the early 1930s in essays such as “The Notion of Expenditure” and “The Problem of the state.” Revolutionary struggle, Bataille had argued, ought primarily to be understood not as a means of achieving utilitarian social transformation, but as an...

  9. Chapter Four EXERCISES IN INUTILITY War, Mysticism, and Bataille’s Writing
    (pp. 124-168)

    “THE DATE ON WHICH I begin to write (September 5, 1939) is not a coincidence. I am beginning because of the events, but not in order to talk about them” (BOC V, 245). The first lines of Bataille’sGuilty (Le Coupable)signal both a linkage and a disjunction between the text and the historical setting in which Bataille writes.Guilty,Bataille tells us, is born with, out of, and against World War II. On September 2, Hitler’s troops had invaded Poland; France and England declared war on Germany the following day. As Europe plunged into what would be the most...

  10. Chapter Five THE SPECTACLE OF SACRIFICE War and Performance in Simone Weil
    (pp. 169-212)

    FROM 1939 TO 1943, as Bataille chronicled his “mad experience of the divine” (BOC V, 45) inGuiltyandInner Experience,Simone Weil was also exploring the boundaries of violence, mysticism, and communication. Like Bataille’s, Weil’s mystical turn coincided with the beginning of World War II. For Weil as for Bataille, the war was a period of anguish, deep spiritual experience, and feverish literary productivity.

    In contrast to Bataille, however, Simone Weil did not view her mystical explorations as precluding engagement in the war effort. The last years of Weil’s life, during which her mysticism flourished, were marked by repeated...

  11. Conclusion COMMUNICATION, SAINTHOOD, RESISTANCE
    (pp. 213-226)

    BATAILLE AND WEIL lived an epoch of convulsive social crisis, intellectual disillusionment, and war. Well before Derrida and Lyotard, Bataille, Weil, and other members of the generations that reached intellectual maturity in the France of the 1930s experienced their own version of the collapse of thegrands récits,including those of Enlightenment liberalism, Marxism, the ideology of scientific progress, and traditional forms of religion. Over the course of the decades preceding World War II, the grounding philosophical and/or religious convictions that should have offered support for political and moral commitment fell away under the feet of many men and women....

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 227-244)
  13. WORKS CITED
    (pp. 245-252)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 253-258)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 259-259)