Ecce Monstrum: Georges Bataille and the Sacrifice of Form

Ecce Monstrum: Georges Bataille and the Sacrifice of Form

Jeremy Biles
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 372
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  • Book Info
    Ecce Monstrum: Georges Bataille and the Sacrifice of Form
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4775-2
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    In the 1930s, French writer Georges Bataille (1897–1962) established a secret society known asAcéphale. 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 FEROCIOUSLY RELIGIOUS.”¹ Following this fervent enunciation, he heralds the acéphalic deity that embodies this fierce religious sensibility. Enhanced by a drawing executed by his friend, the surrealist André Masson, Bataille’s description evokes a headless being, anthropomorphic but incomplete. Arms outstretched in a cruciform posture, hands bearing a blade and a flaming sacred heart, intestines visibly churning...

  6. ONE Ecstatic and Intolerable: The Provocations of Friendship
    (pp. 9-35)

    What is truth, apart from the representation of excess, if we only see that which exceeds the possibility of seeing what it is intolerable to see, just as in ecstasy enjoyment is intolerable?

    —Georges bataille,Erotism

    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 life had now given way to awareness of death’s imminence. In poor health, Bataille,...

  7. TWO Nietzsche Slain
    (pp. 36-71)

    A misunderstanding … am I, and ever will be.

    —Friedrich nietzsche,Ecce Homo

    Only when ye have all denied me will I come back unto you.

    —Friedrich nietzsche,Thus Spake Zarathustra

    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 his initial exposure to Nietzsche, Bataille never stops returning to him; Nietzsche haunts nearly all of Bataille’s writings....

  8. THREE The Labyrinth: Toward Bataille’s “Extremist Surrealism”
    (pp. 72-94)

    Upon a first reading, Bataille’s late bookLascaux, 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 which the now famous cave paintings of Lascaux came into being. Though some of the hypotheses that Bataille forwards may be somewhat extravagant for a book of its type,² his characteristic obsessions with transgression, death, sovereignty, and eroticism nonetheless surface with relative gentleness, to less eruptive effect than one might expect in a...

  9. FOUR The Cross: Simone Weil’s Hyperchristianity
    (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 thought, and it is in particular the image of Plato’s famous cave that at once fascinates and frightens Weil in her notebooks, where she associates the cave with the dangers of wounding and blinding.² Moreover, in the essay “Forms of the Implicit Love of God,” Weil offers this...

  10. FIVE The Wounded Hands of Bataille: Hans Bellmer, Bataille, and the Art of Monstrosity
    (pp. 124-162)

    Two hands fold into one, a gesture meant to carry man into the great oneness.

    —Martin heidegger

    Among the artistic depictions of the crucified Christ at Golgotha, Matthias Gruünewald’sIsenheim 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 swooning mother Mary, hands clasped and eyes closed in a faint. To his left is an anachronistically intact and relatively stoical John the Baptist, who, in this scene of hyperbolic agony and grief, ironically appears to be the only...

  11. CONCLUSION: Bataillean Meditations
    (pp. 163-170)

    In book 4 of hisGeneration 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 not the spirit, of this description. Aristotle’s interests are classificatory in nature; his purposes are scientific and philosophical. Bataille, on the other hand, aggressively pursues deviation, making aberration a component in an experiential process. His fascination with, and affective response to, such natural prodigies as those of...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 171-232)
    (pp. 233-242)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 243-250)