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Balance and Extremity: A Comparison of Richards and Bataille

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Abstract

A sense of the disparate reception of organicism in the twentieth century can be gleaned by comparing the early writings of I. A. Richards with those of Georges Bataille. In what follows, I will present their response to the organicist heritage in the 1920s and early 1930s. This seemingly incongruous coupling will demonstrate an important crossroads in the development of thought on organicism. From this junction, one way leads towards more moderate and simple structures, and to the ignoring of inherent problems of organicism. The other way is embroiled in the extremities and aporias inherited from Coleridge and his contemporaries, and in the process leads to the abandonment of the possibility of structural closure. While my reading of Richards will show that the notion of the closed totality of the work can only perilously put its trust in organicism, the following interpretation of Bataille’s early texts will show how a modern, subversive understanding of the body is born from radical elements of the heritage of organicism.

Keywords

Early Text Psychological Structure Heterogeneous Element Homogeneous Society Intellectual Intuition 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    John Paul Russo, I. A. Richards: His Life and Work (London: Routledge, 1989), xvi-xvii.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    René Wellek and Austin Warren’s classic Theory of Literature, where one is cautioned that thinking of a literary works in terms of organicism ‘leads to biological parallels not always relevant’ (Theory of Literature [Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1956 (1942)], 27).24.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    W. H. N. Hotopf, Language, Thought and Comprehension: A Case Study of the Writings of I. A. Richards (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1965), 100.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    I. A. Richards, Coleridge on Imagination (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962 [1934]), 57.Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    I. A. Richards, Practical Criticism: A Study of Literary Judgment (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1929), 332.Google Scholar
  6. 13.
    Jerome P. Schiller, I. A. Richards’ Theory of Literature (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1969), 53.Google Scholar
  7. 15.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson, Selected Essays (New York: Penguin Books, 1982), 262.Google Scholar
  8. 16.
    Terry Eagleton finds Richards’ conception of the mind ‘not far from the Victorian belief that organizing the lower classes will ensure the survival of the upper ones, and indeed [it] is significantly related to it’ (Literary Theory: An Introduction [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983], 46).Google Scholar
  9. 17.
    I. A. Richards, The Philosophy of Rhetoric (London: Oxford University Press, 1965), 103.Google Scholar
  10. 26.
    Freud’s Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, in The Standard Edition, volume VII (edited by James Strachey, London: Hogarth Press, 1971).Google Scholar
  11. 29.
    Denis Hollier, ‘The Use-Value of the Impossible’, 148, in Carolyn Bailey Gill (ed.), Bataille: Writing the Sacred (London: Routledge, 1995).Google Scholar
  12. 32.
    Georges Bataille, ‘Autobiographical Note’, 222, in My Mother, Madame Edwarda, The Dead Man (translated by Austryn Wainhouse, London: Marion Boyars, 1995).Google Scholar
  13. 42.
    Denis Hollier, ‘The Dualist Materialism of Georges Bataille’, in Allan Stoekl (ed.), On Bataille, Yale French Studies, Number 78 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1990).Google Scholar
  14. 45.
    Theodor W. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory (edited and translated by Robert Hullot-Kentor, London: The Athlone Press, 1997), 144.Google Scholar
  15. 48.
    Susan Rubin Suleiman, ‘Bataille in the Street: The Search for Virility in the 1930s’, in Carolyn Bailey Gill (ed.), Bataille: Writing the Sacred (London: Routledge, 1995)Google Scholar
  16. Leo Bersani, The Culture of Redemption (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990), 109–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 50.
    (Pamela McCallum, Literature and Method: Towards a Critique of I. A. Richards, T. S. Eliot and F. R. Leavis [Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1983], 11).Google Scholar
  18. Geoffrey H. Hartman on the implications of Richards’ ‘evasion of the sociological issue’ (‘The Dream of Communication’, 162, in Brower, Vendler and Hollander (eds.), I. A. Richards: Essays in His Honor [New York: Oxford University Press, 1973]).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Charles I. Armstrong 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of BergenNorway

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