Base transgressions: legacies of Georges Bataille in queer and feminist experimental writing

Bamford-Blake, Tom (2019) Base transgressions: legacies of Georges Bataille in queer and feminist experimental writing. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Georges Bataille has been both influential and highly contentious in the years since his death. His theories have been generative for some left-leaning thinkers yet seen as intellectual dead ends by others. He influenced feminist writers while often being read as misogynistic. My thesis follows trajectories of this influence, primarily in modern and queer and feminist Anglophone experimental writing. I focus on Bataille’s concepts of the base as that which transgresses the limits of thought and language, and of communication as a radical move towards community that can only occur through such base transgression. Taken together, these concepts provide ways of thinking through a series of queer and feminist critiques of existing intellectual and political structures. At the same time, Bataille’s concept of the base hovers between a disruptive anti-essentialism and a reductive essentialism in a way that presents problems for such critiques.

My thesis follows several interconnecting threads. I analyse the possibilities and limitations of Bataille’s theory of transgression for understanding different feminist approaches to sex and sexual violence, using the radically differing examples of Andrea Dworkin and Kathy Acker (chapters one and two). Moreover, I consider what roles the base and communication might play with regard to Dworkin and Acker. My readings here are dependent on the work of Laure, both one of Bataille’s major influences and one of his fiercest critics. I show how Laure’s influence on Acker in particular provides a necessary counterpoint to Acker’s interest in Bataille (chapter two).

I then consider the roles played by transgression and communication in the work of Rob Halpern (chapter three). Halpern’s Common Place considers possibilities for queer community under capitalist and imperialist heremonies. Exploring Genet and New Narrative as influences on Halpern, I explore the important questions raised by Halpern’s work while arguing that it remains limited by its adherence to certain kinds of transgressive subjectivity. I then extend this critique to take in the political dynamics of the live poetry reading, comparing how they operate in readings by Halpern and by Kenneth Goldsmith. Finally, in my conclusion I place this thinking of the base in relation to different approaches to revolution and recuperation in Marxist and Fanonian thought.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > English
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The Family. Marriage. Women > HQ0012 Sexual life > HQ0075 Homosexuality. Lesbianism. Including queer theory
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0045 Theory. Philosophy. Esthetics > PN0045.5 Relation to and treatment of special elements, problems, and subjects
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 17 Jan 2020 08:57
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:48

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