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By Amy Hollywood

Sensible Ecstasy investigates the allure to over the top types of mysticism between twentieth-century French intellectuals and demonstrates the paintings that the determine of the mystic does for those thinkers. With targeted consciousness to Georges Bataille, Simone de Beauvoir, Jacques Lacan, and Luce Irigaray, Amy Hollywood asks why resolutely secular, even anti-Christian intellectuals are interested in affective, physically, and generally denigrated different types of mysticism.

What is specific to those thinkers, Hollywood finds, is their awareness to varieties of mysticism linked to ladies. They regard mystics similar to Angela of Foligno, Hadewijch, and Teresa of Avila no longer as emotionally over the top or escapist, yet as precise of their skill to imagine open air of the restrictive oppositions that proceed to afflict our realizing of subjectivity, the physique, and sexual distinction. Mystics similar to those, like their twentieth-century descendants, bridge the gaps among motion and contemplation, emotion and cause, and physique and soul, providing new methods of wondering language and the bounds of representation.

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Extra info for Sensible ecstasy : mysticism, sexual difference, and the demands of history

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For many of Bataille’s subsequent readers, his texts are scandalous because of the nature of the experience described within them. This judgment is tied to a tendency to read Bataille autobiographically—to insist on the reality of that about which he writes. Yet for Bataille, as I will show through an analysis of his early novel Story of the Eye, the kind of autobiographical realism to which many commentators and critics subject his work is itself an evasion of the “real”—that in experience that resists narrativization.

We might, for example, read the “Diary” sections of Bataille’s wartime publication On Nietzsche (the third volume of the Atheological Summa) as exemplifying the kinds of experience that gave rise to his posthumously published Theory of Religion. This reading would be only slightly complicated by the recognition of Bataille’s claim that eroticism and religion are closely related and that his erotic fiction is crucial to understanding his other writings. Bataille insists, for example, that Madame Edwarda, in which the protagonist sees God in a prostitute’s genitals, is so “closely linked” to Inner Experience (the first volume of the Atheological Summa) that “one cannot understand one without the other” (OC V 421; IE 168).

Yet if experience grounds Bataille’s theory, then objectivity is undermined and theory itself becomes merely another aspect of Bataille’s subjective experience. In this case, Sartre’s initial critique stands, and we are forced to ask on what grounds Bataille moves from his own idiosyncratic experience to a general theory of religion and eroticism. The contradictions these autobiographical interpretations produce suggest that Bataille is working toward an understanding of experience at odds with that deployed by most philosophers and theorists.

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