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Primitivism, Transgression, and other Myths: The Philosophical Anthropology of Georges Bataille

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Title: Primitivism, Transgression, and other Myths: The Philosophical Anthropology of Georges Bataille
Author: Fechter, John
Advisor: Hart, Laurie Kain; Wright, Kathleen
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of Philosophy
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of Anthropology
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Running Time: 933042 bytes
Issue Date: 2007
Abstract: This essay reviews some of the anthropological theories and ethnographic interpretations offered to us by the 20th Century French writer and philosopher Georges Bataille. As a writer, Bataille is both the product of his own historical environment as well as the object of intense contemporary philosophical and literary reappropriation by others; at the same time, however, he is also a writer whose own original philosophy has helped shape the boundaries of these same disciplines. Accordingly, an introductory section sets this scene for Bataille’s ideas about societies both “primitive” and modern. At the beginning of his philosophical career, Bataille shifts from an interest in the cultural impurities of sacrificial or primitive behaviors to a more abstract philosophy of "the sacred" or "the primitive" as an element of all social life. As such Bataille has become an attractively transgressive writer for contemporary scholars. A second section examines the mythical quality of Bataille’s writings on prehistoric origins, arguing that his need for origin myths is shared by the anthropology with which Bataille was engaged. A third section looks more closely at examples from so-called primitive societies in Bataille’s work The Accursed Share, arguing that these examples fill a problematic gap in his theory between myth-like natural and cultural origins. A short concluding section finds that Bataille’s orientation has much in common with his contemporary anthropologists, but that Bataille's philosophy will mean that he must ultimately depart from an empirical examination of other societies.
Subject: Bataille, Georges, 1897-1962 -- Criticism and interpretation
Subject: Bataille, Georges, 1897-1962. Part maudite
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Fechter, John. "Primitivism, Transgression, and other Myths: The Philosophical Anthropology of Georges Bataille". 2007. Available electronically from

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