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Ecce Monstrum Georges Bataille and the Sacrifice of Form by Jeremy Biles

Ecce Monstrum Georges Bataille and the Sacrifice of Form

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Ecce Monstrum Georges Bataille and the Sacrifice of Form by Jeremy Biles

In the 1930s, Georges Bataille proclaimed a ferociously religious sensibility 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 monstrous mode 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 sacrificial interpretations of Kojeve'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 Andre 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.


In this superb study of Bataille, Jeremy Biles navigates between Bataille's fascination with the horrible and the monstrous on the one hand, and his insistence on the possibility of the sacred in the modern world on the other. With erudition and level-headed admiration, Biles shows how Bataille's work is a meditation, willfully combining horror and ecstasy, joy in the face of death, and sacrifice as a necessary antidote to form. Biles reads Bataille on four principle thinkers: Hegel, Nietzsche, Simone Weil, and Andre Breton.The reader emerges from this study understanding, not only the importance to modernity of Bataille himself, but also the extent to which Bataille's project provides a certain modernist trajectory the ramifications of which are increasingly clear today. -- -Francoise Meltzer * University of Chicago * All in all, among recent studies on Bataille, Biles's book is the one that perhaps approaches best Bataille's thought while proposing new interpretations of his work. * -H-Net Reviews * One is struck by Biles's erudition: not only has he read, with patience and great sensitivity, the entirety of Bataille's writings along with his principal commentators, but he writes insightfully also about the works of the many figures (Hegel, Nietzsche, Simone Weil, Andre Breton) in relation to whom he situates Bataille. -- -Peter Tracey Connor * Barnard College * Biles demonstrates an excellent grasp of the critical commentary on, and the cultural context of Georges Bataille. The stakes of Bataille's work in the areas of intellectual history, literary history, and modern, and postmodern, art are clearly explored. Wonderfully informative and stimulating. -- -Allan Stoekl * Pennsylvania State University *

About the Author

Jeremy Biles is the author of Ecce Monstrum: Georges Bataille and the Sacrifice of Form (Fordham, 2007). He teaches courses on religion, philosophy, and art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His writings have appeared in such places as the Journal of Religion; Culture, Theory, and Critique; and Performance Research. A selection of his drawings, some inspired by Andre Masson's Acephale, appeared in the 2014 group show Baudy at the Adds Donna Gallery in Chicago.

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Book Info

Publication date

15th December 2007


Jeremy Biles

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Fordham University Press


372 pages


Religion & beliefs



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