Interpretation, the subject and the literature of Georges Bataille

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Camps, James
  • Subject: B1

This thesis pursues two closely related lines of argument. In the first half, I explore the Bataillean notion of man through his complex relationship with Hegel and Nietzsche. The Janus-like conception that will be dis-covered results from Bataille’s unwillingness to grant priority either to Hegel’s insights concerning the structure of consciousness or to Nietzsche’s claim, contra Hegel, that those putative insights ‘involve a vast and thorough corruption, falsification, superficialization, and generalization’ (The Gay Science)\ud Bataille acknowledges the heuristic value of both thinkers’ work but ultimately refuses to let either become the dominant force within his thought. In the end Bataille’s human being remains caught between the ‘ex-cess’ of Nietzschean Will and the ‘restriction’ of Hegelian consciousness. He sees human existence, much like Freud, as moving with a ‘vacillating rhythm’ (Beyond the Pleasure Principle) between ‘conscious’ and ‘unconscious’ activity. This recognition leads him to conclude that there exists a fundamental ambiguity to human existence – the Impossible – which resists reduction or assimilation to any kind of formal discourse.\ud \ud The second half proceeds to explore this ambiguity in more detail by first teasing out the relationship be-tween the traumatic experiences at the heart of two of Bataille’s novels against the Freudian notion of Trauma (repetition automatism) and its relation to the creation of Identity. This ultimately proves insuffi-cient when it comes to interpreting the actions of Bataille’s fictional characters. However it opens a space within which other methodologies of interpretation, namely those of Lacan, Girard, and Derrida, can be in-vestigated as potential sources of insight into those characters’ psychological structures and motivation. Here they are explored in relation to each other and in order to describe and explain more adequately the ‘impossible’ ambiguity at the heart of Bataille’s novels and conception of the human.
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