The Presence of Rimbaud in the Poetics of Georges Bataille

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The poetics of Georges Bataille are relatively little known in the critical literature on Bataille, in part due to the fact that the relevant texts are somewhat dispersed across his complete works, and partly because Bataille is most often still not thought of as a poet or as a writer who considers poetry seriously or to the same extent as philosophy or fiction. It is also the case that Bataille himself was profoundly ambivalent about poetry and saw poetry as a minor, lesser discourse, one towards which he declared a hatred. I seek to understand this ambivalence and do so by analysing the presence of Rimbaud in his work, a figure with whom Bataille engages critically, often obliquely, but profoundly and throughout the period during which he writes on poetry. This problematic engagement, from the starting point of rejecting poetic history, nonetheless determines the formal, thematic and philosophical problems of Bataille’s own poetic project. The approach to Bataille’s writings via those of Rimbaud - while also taking account of broader references to literary history and to poets such as Baudelaire and Mallarme - allows for Bataille’s poetry to be considered afresh in a literary context rather than a broadly philosophical one. The methodology I employ works through a series of close readings of Bataille’s texts - principally L ’Experience interieure, L ’Impossible and L ’Erotisme as well as La Litterature et le mal and key articles - to analyse the core concerns of Bataille’s poetics and how these concerns are articulated in poems written by Bataille himself. I argue that Bataille’s poetics engage with and concretise his other concerns, the notion of sacrifice being crucial among them, and also his philosophical enquiries into experience and subjectivity. I argue that the notion of sacrifice dominates the poetics and is the guiding praxis for many of the poems, yet both sacrifice and subjectivity are problematic a
Sacrifice and subjectivity both present difficulties as well as offering solutions to the conditions of representation in poetry after Mallarme, Apollinaire, Surrealism and Rimbaud.
Date of Award1 May 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorPatrick Ffrench (Supervisor) & Johanna Malt (Supervisor)

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