Study Guide

Georges Bataille Buzzwords

Advertisement - Guide continues below

The Sacred

The fact that humans need sacred things is super weird to me, but I also find this fact pretty exciting. Why is that? Well, if you look closely enough at religious practices, you'll find that a lot of them involve bloody sacrifice. Check it out: you've got Aztecs ripping out human hearts, Christians worshipping a guy who got nailed to a cross, tribes in New Guinea eating bodies and shrinking heads.

What's up with all this? I say that all this carnage happens in order to create sacred space. It's like humans need to go to weird, violent extremes in order to get out of mundane reality and create something a little different... a little sacred. I love it. It's as if watching a horror moving and going to church are the same gruesome thing.

Base Materialism

Base matter—vomit, excrement, blood, all matter that grosses us out—is the matter that all human beings share. I also think that this base matter is something that binds the elements of literature together. Let me explain.

Next time you read a novel, pay attention to how blood is spilled, or how tears flow, or how the characters eat. Take a look at how a character's deformity or disfiguring disease burdens that character. If you do, you'll see how base materialism—the dynamic, imperfect human body—connects characters, shapes environments, and propels plot lines.

Think how Oliver Twist's hunger in the orphanage makes the whole plot of Dickens's novel start moving. May I have some more please? That's base materialism propelling the plot.

Even examining authors' bodily states at the time they wrote can tell you a lot about how and why they wrote about the things they did. Think of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, for instance. Did you know she wrote it not long after she experienced a horrible miscarriage? Makes you look at things a little differently, right?

Transgression Literature

This is how a guy like me breaks free from the confining rules of society and the demons in his own head. Write down the crazy, and the crazy calms down, right?

Revealing what is taboo—in art, for example—scares the crap out of people, and that is super important, because otherwise people who get so pent up, they'd go crazy. Writing or reading about people doing things that are shocking, in my humble opinion, is the very essence of literature.


I really believe that all human beings have a need to expend energy for no reason at all, without expecting anything in return. Great literature is all about writing from the gut and not caring if what you write lands you a multi-million-dollar book deal. Wouldn't it be great to expend energy just because it feels good, instead of always looking for a return?

I'm all about excess and the ways humans deal with it. When I talk about excess, I'm talking about all kinds of things—excess desire, excess money, excess thought. Literature helps us deal with excess, and I think that the more extravagant and the stranger the expenditure of literary expression, the more powerful the reading experience.

Basically, I think that one reason people write is in order to expend some of their own excess, and this writing then helps other people expend their excess. Or, in simpler turns: people write because they're trying to deal with their own urges; then people read this stuff in order to deal with the urges they have.


Literature liberates both the author and the reader from the restrictions that society places on them. By reading greats works of literature and enjoying all the nasty, shocking, evil deeds that take place there, a reader can regain sovereignty over his or her self. The reader can regain control.

Society tells you how to behave. Society tells you that certain behaviors are improper, and society tells you that you are evil if you think about or participate in activities that are improper. The trouble is, everyone has "improper" thoughts, and everyone looks for ways to deal with those thoughts.

Religion, science, fashion, and social norms take away your sovereignty. Reading and writing literature gives you a sovereign space where you can work out your own morality, safe from oppressive social conventions.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...