ABSTRACT

Georges Bataille (1897-1962) was born to a depressive, suicidal mother and a strict disciplinarian father in Puy-de-Dôme, France. At the outset of World War I, Bataille converted to Catholicism at the age of 17. The zeal with which he embraced his newfound faith is evident in his first published text, which laments the bombing of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame at Reims. Bataille joined a Benedictine seminary with the goal of becoming a priest, but was forced to serve in the French army from 1916 to 1917. His discharge from the army due to tuberculosis and his difficult personal life during this time caused him to abandon his faith. From 1918 to 1922 Bataille studied paleography and library science at the École des Chartes in Paris. The latter area of study led to his obtaining a position at the Bibliothèque Nationale. During the Nazi occupation of France, it was Bataille’s position and his savvy that ensured the survival of Walter Benjamin’s notes for his unfinished project on the Parisian arcades. When Benjamin decided to flee to Spain, he entrusted his working materials to Bataille, who hid them in the library. In a scholarly and artistic career spanning more than four decades, Bataille wrote on an impressive array of subjects, including autobiography, eroticism (he wrote erotic fiction as well

as nonfiction on the subject of eroticism), literary criticism, numismatics, politics, philosophy, religion, sociology, and art. His thought is unclassifiable, a fact which led Roland Barthes to call Bataille a producer of “texts” rather than “works.”