Convulsive Form: Benjamin, Bataille and the Innervated Body

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Starting from Giorgio Agamben's proposition, in 'Notes on Gesture', that the 20th-century is beset by a 'crisis of gesture' this chapter explores the convulsive or 'innervated body' in the work of Walter Benjamin and Georges Bataille. Taking a less melancholy approach than Agamben, I ask what can the convulsive body do and what forms can it produce. Both Benjamin and Bataille invest the convulsive body with a power susceptible to provoke affective 'discharge' and thus with a kind of political agency. Their approaches differ, however, over the nature of this politics; while Benjamin accentuates the potential of play and its gesturality, especially in his writing in cinema, Bataille pursues convulsion on the terrain of ritual and sacrifice, particularly in the novel Le Bleu du ciel. For both, however, the dangerous continuity between the convulsion and an authoritarian politics is at stake.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWhat Forms Can Do
Subtitle of host publicationThe Work of Form in 20th- and 21st-Century French Literature and Thought
EditorsShirley Jordan, Patrick Crowley
Place of PublicationLiverpool
PublisherLiverpool University Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781789624755
ISBN (Print)978-1-789-62065-8
Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2020

Publication series

NameContemporary French and Francophone Cultures
PublisherLiverpool University Press


  • Walter Benjamin
  • Georges Bataille
  • Innervation
  • Convulsion
  • Cinema
  • Mickey Mouse


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