The Sunday of the Negative: Reading Bataille Reading Hegel (Suny Series in Hegelian Studies)
Christopher M. Gemerchak
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
it is as a negation of negation that God is properly conceived as the One or pure unity, and so the response constitutes an affirmation. That Eckhart asserts unity through a negation of negation certainly would have appealed to Hegel. But rather than invoking Exodus, I would speculate that Hegel—after John 1.1—would have turned to John 1.14: “And the Word has become a human being of flesh and blood and has come to live among us.” I justify this speculation for two reasons: the first is that it
Admittedly, I cannot count myself among the flawless few who avoid all such argumentative expediency, for our analysis thus far may well have been complicitous in such a characterization of Hegel as the systematic thinker of the closed totality. Yet Bataille has no less been the object of such generalizations, and as fate would have it, that with which he is identified, and for which he has received his most uncritical welcome in postmodern thought, may well be the least defensible of his
oneself and one’s presence. Yet when Bataille writes, it is so that “my death and I slip away together into the wind from outside where I open myself to my absence.” What his writing makes present is his absence itself. Bataille is continually attempting to express in his own way the double bind of language itself, for “writing and speech can entail either mastery or dispossession—the dispossession of the self,”26 its dispossession by the objectivity of language, which subverts our meanings and
reproduction of Goya’s The Third of May (1814),(“minus what this painting signifies” [Malraux]), the narration of a political event is expressed with outrage by the Spaniard, while the death painted by Manet is executed with the same indifference with which one would paint a fish.102 Manet does tell a story, but it is told with total indifference to the event. However, the raw passion and refusal of eloquence found in Goya’s work effectively achieves the same silence as that of Manet, though it
because our contemporary reading of the full complexity of Hegel’s thought is still in its adolescence. And since one cannot ‘overcome’ that which one does not fully understand, there will be no talk here of Bataille as definitively ‘overcoming’ Hegel. Why then center the discussion on what Derrida refers to as Bataille’s “interminable explication with Hegel”?28 While it is obvious to the “professional” reader of Bataille—as awful as that sounds—that Hegel is an opponent, that he is as well