Silent transmission: the influence of Buddhist traditions on Georges Bataille's 'La pratique de la joie devant la mort'

McCormick, Lucy Elizabeth (2020) Silent transmission: the influence of Buddhist traditions on Georges Bataille's 'La pratique de la joie devant la mort'. MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Beyond vague references to his ‘Eastern’ or ‘Oriental’ influences, there exists almost no work on the impact made by Buddhist traditions on the work of Georges Bataille. This study takes a first step towards understanding this impact. It embarks upon a reading of 'La Pratique de la joie devant la mort' as a record of Bataille’s meditation practice infused with Tibetan and Japanese Zen Buddhist concepts and practices as he understood them, through the prism of European interactions therewith. The study traces the evolution of what are here termed the ‘imagined Buddhisms’ emerging from such interactions, from early Euro-Buddhist encounters during the Christian missions, through the 19th-century birth of ‘Buddhist Studies’ and the related influence of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, to an interwar avant-garde preoccupied with the rejection of the European values held to have caused WWI. Foremost of the avant-garde factions considered here is the secret society Acéphale, founded by Bataille with the stated aims of creating a new religion and waging war on ‘tout ce qui est reconnu aujourd’hui’. In the course of this investigation, a pattern of Buddhist traditions weaponised in support of European projects is established; one in which they are imagined and re-imagined alternately as equivalent and antagonist to the work of Bataille, his peers and their antecedents.

'La Pratique de la joie devant la mort' emerges in the light of Bataille’s ‘imagined Buddhism’ as a practical version of an inverted Nietzschean sovereignty, incorporating elements of the concepts and practices of Tibetan and Japanese Zen Buddhism as he understood them. In the former case, these include his method of dramatisation (the projection of real or imagined images to bring about a rupture in the psyche)and the idea of Tibetan meditation as what he terms a means of ‘put[ting one] to sleep’. Such an ‘put[ting] to sleep’ is argued to be akin to the what Bataille elsewhere calls the ‘narcotic’ of the profane world and to which he offers his own practice as a solution. In the case of Japanese Zen, the process Bataille would come to call the 'opération souveraine' is shown to be present in 'La Pratique de la joie devant la mort' and to bear resemblance to the process of achieving the form of Zen enlightenment called satori. A momentary flash of insight, satori is also shown to be comparable to the breakthrough of sacred from profane.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Georges Bataille, Zen, Tibet, Tibetan Buddhism,Buddhism, avant garde.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BQ Buddhism
P Language and Literature > PQ Romance literatures
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
College of Arts & Humanities > School of Modern Languages and Cultures > French
Supervisor's Name: Fotiade, Dr. Ramona, Yazaki, Dr. Saeko and Salazar-Ferrer, Dr. Olivier
Date of Award: 2020
Depositing User: Ms Lucy McCormick
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-82233
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 03 Jun 2021 07:17
Last Modified: 03 Jun 2021 07:31
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82233

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