Mourning and Mania: Visions of Intoxication and Death in the Poetry of Georges Bataille

  • Eugene Brennan


Poetry occupies a privileged place in the work of Georges Bataille. Along with a number of recurring signifiers throughout his work, it suggests a form ‘unproductive expenditure’. For Bataille this referred to states or practices which were not subservient to a future goal or specific purpose. Bataille characterises eroticism, for example, along these lines as a loss of energy, a loss of self in a moment of intensity, as distinct from the future-oriented goals of procreation or attaining pleasure. Productive expenditure is based on conservation for the future while unproductive expenditure is all about loss in the present moment, exceeding the servile confines of everyday life. In an early landmark essay Bataille characterised poetry in these terms as ‘synonymous with expenditure; it in fact signifies, in the most precise way, creation by means of loss. Its meaning is therefore close to that of sacrifice’ (Bataille, 2013, p. 120). The type of poetry envisioned here would have only a secondary relationship to representation and symbolism, and would primarily seek actually to enact a sacrifice of words, dramatising moments of loss.


Secret Society Privileged Place Zone Book Focus Meditation Unproductive Expenditure 
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© Eugene Brennan 2015

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  • Eugene Brennan

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