Study Guide

Georges Bataille Introduction

Georges Bataille Introduction

So, all you writers and literary critics out there want to believe that literature expresses the highest, most elevated potential in human thought and has the power to change the world, right? Well, Georges Bataille is here to tell you that literature is crap. No, really, he means that. Literature is to be experienced as an awesome release of disturbed psychic tension, just like a good bowel movement or a really great orgasm.

Yeah, take that. Do you dare to continue?

Bataille really wanted to make friends, but he always thought it was better to show all his cards from the get-go... and what he talked about could be rough to listen to. His ideas got him kicked out of the Surrealists' clubhouse, for crying out loud. Seriously, what does it take to get excommunicated by a bunch of guys who draw melting clocks, swarms of flies, and rotting corpses? Well, you're about to find out.

The Shmoop on Poop

According to Bataille, good literature is and always should be scandalous. It should show characters destroying themselves and everyone around them. It should show the world coming apart. The heart of literature, says Bataille, is evil and disturbing, unrepeatable and dark—and in Bataille Land, all of this is a good thing.

Bataille thinks that literature is about the purging of excess energies. It's like praying to the porcelain god at four in the morning after having slogged 14 chicken wings too many at the all-you-can-eat buffet. It's ugly, but once it's over, you feel so much better.

In Bataille's world, great literature allows readers to purge all the horrible, disturbing, sickening thoughts that build up in their sad human brains. Without the author writing down the unthinkable for you, you really would go crazy.

Yeah, lots of people thought Bataille had a screw or eight loose, but Bataille sure didn't think so. He simply felt compelled to talk about and analyze literary expressions of filth and evil and pain and taboo so we all could understand more completely our darker natures. And he want to be loved for it. Is that so wrong?

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