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Abstract

In his search for the origins of the transgressive philosophical project of Georges Bataille, biographer Michel Surya turns to Bataille’s experiences in Spain in 1922. Surya cites two commentaries on flamenco written by Bataille twenty-four years apart. In the first of these commentaries, written in 1922, Bataille describes a female flamenco dancer in erotic terms. In the second commentary, written in 1946, Bataille describes the experience of flamenco in terms of ecstasy and death, essential components of the experience of approximating “the impossible” or the void. The 1922 depiction of the dancer is Bataille’s first known erotic writing, significant because of the critical role of erotic terminology in describing the experience of the void. From the quotes Surya provides, flamenco emerges in Bataille’s consciousness not only as an instance of approximating the impossible, but also as the catalyst for the development of this concept. Bataille, however, derives this catalytic eroticism from a process of Othering that subverts the experience of the impossible. By constructing this inherently unstable concept, Bataille denies the utility of flamenco in lending the possibility of political transgression and sovereignty to women.

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