The Sunday of the Negative: Reading Bataille Reading Hegel (Suny Series in Hegelian Studies)

The Sunday of the Negative: Reading Bataille Reading Hegel (Suny Series in Hegelian Studies)

Christopher M. Gemerchak

Language: English

Pages: 302

ISBN: 0791456323

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

A comprehensive philosophical introduction to the thought of Georges Bataille.

Although often considered an esoteric figure occupying the dark fringes of twentieth-century thought, Georges Bataille was a pivotal precursor to a generation of poststructuralist and postmodern thinkers—including Baudrillard, Derrida, Foucault, Lacan, and Lyotard. The Sunday of the Negative provides the most extensive English-language investigation of Bataille's critical treatment of the thought of Hegel, focusing on the notions of subjectivity, desire, self-consciousness, knowledge, and the experience of the divine. The book spans all of Bataille's writings, patiently navigating even the most obscure texts. The author explains how Bataille's notion of self-consciousness both derives from, and is an alternative to, that of Hegel. Disclosing the origins of Bataille's most influential concepts, the book moves across philosophy proper to include reflections on anthropology, economics, cultural criticism, poetry, eroticism, mysticism, and religion.

“I am impressed with the author's careful, clear awareness of the range of Bataille's work, and by the clarity with which Bataille—a writer who famously eludes clarification—is explained throughout. Bataille's flaws and limits are addressed without either simple condemnation or apologies.” — Karmen MacKendrick, author of Immemorial Silence

“Gemerchak is able to tease out the very rigorous philosophy of finitude that underpins Bataille's discourse on transgression. By taking Bataille seriously as a philosopher, Gemerchak has not only provided a context for Bataille's theories, he has also revealed Bataille's true stature as one of the most significant thinkers of the twentieth century.” — Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, author of Lacan: The Absolute Master











even at the height of self-consciousness, there is still incompletion, dissatisfaction. “Incomplete” is the first and final term, Bataille’s alpha and omega: “[T]o be Mysticism, Eroticism, and the Sacrificial Ruse 169 disappointed is life’s bottom line, it’s core truth,”27 and the attractions of completion—God or a woman loved, knowledge or death—come from its inaccessibility. We neither fall together with continuity, attain a unity of being, through dissolution, nor in perfect consciousness.

think that we cannot experience and sustain numerous deaths before we physically die. But for Hegel, this is not the whole story, for it is one thing for the human being to be merely a “death . . . conscious of itself,”110 and it is quite another for the human being to be “death that lives a human life.”111 It is on the issue of how life lives death that Hegel and Bataille will part. More precisely, the value given to the anguish or anxiety that accompanies the moment of absolute rending

never a thing— through action in the profane world of things? The answer lies in that which may be identified as the fundamental unity of all sacrifice—literally, the act of making sacred (sacer-facere)—which is the principle of destruction, or equivalently, negation. As Hubert and Mauss tell us, by destroying a victim that, of necessity, is taken from the profane realm, one undermines the victim’s circumscription within the profane world of production and utility, restoring that victim to the

project, is work pure and simple.27 Hence the difficulty in articulating non-servile or sovereign experience, for servility and discourse are thicker than thieves, conspirators in the dialectical constitution of meaning. Consequently, “that which is not servile is unspeakable (inavouable): a reason for laughing . . . that which is not useful must be hidden (under a mask),”28 and the effort to say in the language of servility that which is not servile seems to become an inaccessible possibility.

condemnation, viewed correctly, is only partial: the limited nature of his condemnation is betrayed, on a basic level, by the fact that Bataille himself avidly wrote poetry. What his condemnation really addresses, however, is the notion that poetry and its exercise, while destroying the unambiguous, discursive quality of words, nevertheless leaves the individual—reader or writer—intact: “[C]ertain that the sacrifice of objects [or words, C.G.] is powerless to truly liberate us, we often

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