Study Guide

Georges Bataille - Filth vs. Fantasy

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Filth vs. Fantasy

Bataille may have been a bit jealous of all the attention André Breton received for his Surrealist manifestos. They agreed on the importance of writing about dreams and the unconscious, but Breton thought Bataille went too far in his exploration of the vilest and most corrupt aspects of human beings. After Breton called Bataille an "excremental philosopher," Bataille amped up his blood-and-guts rhetoric, and soon many members of the Surrealist movement moved into his camp.

Breton thought that unconscious thoughts were able to help the individual lead a more authentic personal life. Bataille thought that the darker parts of the unconscious, particularly those that revealed themselves in literature, were there to remind humans that everything leads to death.

According to Bataille, ecstatic lives are better than authentic lives, because true ecstasy— whether experienced through play, sex, bodily functions or laughter—is expressed in activities that mimic death and help the individual prepare for the loss of identity that occurs with death.

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