Bataille's Manet : the subject at risk
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This study investigates Georges Bataille’s monograph Manet, published in 1955 as part of Albert Skira’s accessible "Taste of Our Time" series. I discuss Bataille’s text as a concentrated expression of his socio-philosophical thinking, one that reconsiders the art historical narrative of Manet’s modernism in the author’s own terms. Focusing on Bataille’s sociological schema, as influenced by psychoanalysis and German phenomenology, I discuss his notions of sacrifice, sacred communication, sovereignty, and animality as they inform his discussion of the production and reception of Manet’s art. Emphasis is given to Bataille’s theory and activity associated with the College of Sociology, his discussion of Manet’s incorporation of chance and "indifference" into his painting process, and the crowd’s affective reaction to the exhibition of the artist’s work. I also attempt to establish parallels between Bataille’s vision of Manet and historical and critical precedents. In doing so, I address art historical interpretations of the text, which remains largely misunderstood or misappropriated within the field of art history. Ultimately, the goal of this study is to elucidate some of the complexities of Bataille’s loaded argument and demonstrate its potential use-value for art historical research.