Georges Bataille (September 10, 1897 – July 8, 1962) was a French writer. Although subsequent philosophers have been significantly influenced by his thought, Bataille tended not to refer to himself as a philosopher.
Life and work
Bataille was born in Billom, Auvergne. He initially considered priesthood and went to a Catholic seminary but renounced his faith in 1922.
Bataille attended the École des Chartes in Paris and graduated in February 1922. As a young man, he befriended, and was much influenced by, the Russian existentialist, Lev Shestov.
Founder of several journals and literary groups, Bataille is the author of an oeuvre both abundant and diverse: readings, poems, essays on innumerable subjects (on the mysticism of economy, in passing of poetry, philosophy, the arts, eroticism). He sometimes published under pseudonyms, and some of his publications were banned.
Initially attracted to Surrealism, Bataille quickly fell out with its founder André Breton, although Bataille and the Surrealists resumed cautiously cordial relations after World War II. Bataille was a member of the extremely influential College of Sociology in France between World War I and World War II. The College of Sociology was also comprised of several renegade surrealists. He was heavily influenced by Hegel, Freud, Marx, Marcel Mauss, the Marquis de Sade, Alexandre Kojève, and Friedrich Nietzsche, the last of whom he defended in a notable essay against appropriation by the Nazis.
Fascinated by human sacrifice, he founded a secret society, Acéphale, the symbol of which was a decapitated man. According to legend, Bataille and the other members of Acéphale each agreed to be the sacrificial victim as an inauguration; none of them would agree to be the executioner. An indemnity was offered for an executioner, but none was found before the dissolution of Acéphale shortly before the war. The group also published an eponymous review, concerned with Nietzsche's philosophy, and which attempted to postulate what Jacques Derrida has called an "anti-sovereignty". Bataille thus collaborated with André Masson, Pierre Klossowski, Roger Caillois, Jules Monnerot, Jean Rollin and Jean Wahl.
Bataille drew from diverse influences and used diverse modes of discourse to create his work. His novel The Story of The Eye (Histoire de l'oeil), published under the pseudonym Lord Auch (literally, Lord "to the shithouse" — "auch" being short for "aux chiottes," slang for telling somebody off by sending him to the toilet), was initially read as pure pornography, while interpretation of the work has gradually matured to reveal the considerable philosophical and emotional depth that is characteristic of other writers who have been categorized within "literature of transgression". The imagery of the novel is built upon a series of metaphors which in turn refer to philosophical constructs developed in his work: the eye, the egg, the sun, the earth, the testicle.
Other famous novels include the posthumously published My Mother (which would become the basis of Ma mère, a French movie written and directed by Christophe Honoré), The Impossible and Blue of Noon. The latter, with its necrophilic, political, and autobiographical undertones, is a much darker treatment of contemporary historical reality.
During World War II, he wrote a Summa Atheologica (the title parallels Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica) which comprises his works "Inner Experience," "Guilty," and "On Nietzsche." After the war he composed his The Accursed Share, and founded the influential journal Critique. His singular conception of "sovereignty" was discussed by Jacques Derrida, Giorgio Agamben, Jean-Luc Nancy and others.
In 1955 Bataille was diagnosed with cerebral arteriosclerosis, although he was not informed at the time of the terminal nature of his illness. He died seven years later, on July 8, 1962.
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