10 Pages

Literature as heterological practice: Georges Bataille, writing and inner experience


Writing, for Georges Bataille, doubles as experience. No longer, or not merely, the representation of ‘some occasion’, some ecstatic embrace in the woods, writing itself performs the experience of loss, performs ecstasy. In this account, inky blackness literally surrounds the writing subject; and inside, at the point of the interior inaccessible to thought, presence is consumed by fire. Writing drains, ‘in slow rivers through the inky sky’, the life of the subject to the point of death: to the point where ‘I’ve stopped being ME.’ Through an intense identification with the Other, the subject’s interiority is projected out into an exteriority of pure affect. In an ecstatic tension, immanence bleeds away into external objects that similarly lose themselves as both subject and object, self and other, dissolve in a ‘deep kiss’, rolled round in earth’s nocturnal course, ‘wheeling through heaven’s loss’. Heaven’s loss is the space of the modern sacred, rent open by the terror summoned by the death of God. The space of literature. Or is it? Can Bataille’s accounts of mystical or inner experience, accounts in which the writing itself enacts experience, be called literature? And who am I, the critic, to say? Given the incommensurability of criticism with what Bataille speaks of as literature or, more or less properly, as poetry, what use is criticism? What job can it do? Superfluous in relation to the superfluity that defines literature, criticism can either attempt to assimilate literature, to return it to orders of rationality, restricted economy and empirical reality, or else merely gaze in silent wonder at this sacred form beyond its utility and understanding.