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Critical Essays

Volume 1: 1944–1948

This first book in a three-volume collection of Georges Bataille’s essays introduces English readers to his philosophical and critical writings.

In the aftermath of the Second World War, French thinker and writer Georges Bataille forged a singular path through the moral and political impasses of his age. In 1946, animated by “a need to live events in an increasingly conscious way,” and to reject any compartmentalization of intellectual life, Bataille founded the journal Critique. Adopting the format of the review essay, he surveyed the post-war cultural landscape while advancing his reflections on excess, non-knowledge, and the general economy. Focusing on literature as a mode of sovereign uselessness, he tackled prominent and divisive figures such as Henry Miller and Albert Camus.
In keeping with Critique’s mission to explore the totality of human knowledge, Bataille’s articles did not just focus on the literary but featured important reflections on the science of sexuality, the Chinese Revolution, and historical accounts of drunkenness, among other matters. Throughout, he was attuned to how humanity would deal with the excessive forces of production and destruction it had unleashed, his aim being a way of thinking and living that would inhabit that excess.
This is the first of three volumes collecting Bataille’s post-war essays. Beginning with an article on Nietzsche and fascism written shortly after the liberation of Paris and running to the end of 1948, these texts make available for the first time in English the systematic diversity of Bataille’s post-war thought.

400 pages | 6 x 9

The French List

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory

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"In this erudite volume, scholars Toscano and Noys collect the critical works of French thinker and novelist Georges Bataille (1897–1962), touching on topics including philosophy, literature, religion, geopolitics, art, and psychoanalysis."

Publishers Weekly

"Sixty years after his death, Georges Bataille remains a vexing figure in French literature and philosophy. A creator or member of endless literary and philosophical movements, from the short-lived Acéphale to surrealism, he belonged fully to none of them, not even his own, and his apparent will to destruction often risks carrying over to those who enter into dialogue with him, even today. . . . These essays invite the reader in, in a way that many of Bataille’s works do not; they also give us a glimpse of a thinker working out his position. . ."

Times Literary Supplement

Table of Contents

1.Is Nietzsche Fascist?
2.Is Literature Useful?
3.The Will to the Impossible
4.Picasso’s Political Paintings
5.Miller’s Morality
6.Dionysos Redivivus
7.Mystical Experience and Literature
8.The Indictment of Henry Miller
9.Notes: Gide – Baranger – Gillet
10.The Last Moment
12.Take It or Leave It
13.The War in China
14.Cossery – Robert Aron
15.Marcel Proust and the Profaned Mother
17.The Friendship between Man and Beast
18.Giraud – Pastoureau – Benda – Du Moulin de Laplante – Govy
19.On the Relationship between the Divine and Evil
20.Pierre Gordon
21.What Is Sex?
22.A New American Novelist
24.A Morality based on Misfortune [Malheur]: The Plague
25.Letter to Merleau-Ponty
26.Is Lasting Peace Inevitable?
27.Joseph Conrad
28.Preface to the Gaston-Louis Roux Exhibition
31.Tavern Drunkenness and Religion
32.Political Lying
33.The Sexual Revolution and the Kinsey Report
34.Jean Paulhan – Marc Bloch
35.On the Meaning of Moral Neutrality in the Russo-American War
36.The Divinity of Isou
37.The Mischievousness of Language
38.Marcel Proust

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