The Anglo-American Reception of Georges Bataille: Readings in Theory and Popular Culture

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    The work of Georges Bataille is marked by extreme paradoxes, resistance to systemization, and conscious subversion of authorship. The inherent contradictions and interdisciplinary scope of his work have given rise to many different versions of ‘Bataille’. However one common feature to the many different readings is his status as a marginal figure, whose work is used to challenge existing intellectual orthodoxies. This thesis thus examines the reception of Bataille in the Anglophone world by focusing on how the marginality of his work has been interpreted within a number of key intellectual scenes.

    The original contribution of this thesis is as the first work to consider the popular reception of Bataille, including a range of original research, in comparative analysis with his academic reception. The popular cultural manifestations of Bataille examined here are not merely considered simplifications of the work’s complexity. They amplify the tensions and contradictions we encounter in many academic readings. This thesis highlights the performativity of Bataille’s work by examining his importance for entirely opposing and conflicting intellectual scenes. It argues against readings which idealize the ‘uncorrupted’ text and similarly argues that Bataille’s work does not ‘belong’ to any one cultural space, while simultaneously arguing for a specific ‘internal conflict’ which lends Bataille’s work its impact.

    The introduction contextualises Bataille’s initial reception in France. The first chapter traces the initial dissemination of his work in English through popular publishing. The second chapter examines his reception through academic theory and argues that while his thought was partially depoliticized in translation it was re-politicized in different guises. The third chapter examines a historical scene of reception largely opposed to ‘theory’. The fourth chapter examines his place within British music journalism, and develops the tensions between ‘history’ and ‘theory’, and between the political and anti-political, encountered in the preceding academic readings.

    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Royal Holloway, University of London
    • Milne, Anna-Louise , Supervisor, External person
    Award date1 May 2016
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2016

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