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Saints of the Impossible

Bataille, Weil, and the Politics of the Sacred

2002
Author:

Alexander Irwin

Saints of the Impossible

A surprising exploration of the relationship between these two twentieth-century thinkers

Saints of the Impossible provides the first in-depth comparison of Bataille’s and Weil’s thought, showing how an exploration of their relationship reveals new facets of the achievements of two of the twentieth century’s leading intellectual figures, and raises far-reaching questions about literary practice, politics, and religion.

Too often there is a tendency to examine intellectual projects in isolation; for some reason this is particularly true of analyses of writers of the 1930s and 1940s. Irwin, through superb scholarship, demonstrates the links between Bataille, Durkheim, Mauss, and Mounier, but where he breaks new ground is the extended linking of Weil and Bataille. This illuminating book considers these two supremely important intellects together and clearly demonstrates their rapports.

Allan Stoekl, Penn State University

The transgressive writing of Georges Bataille (1897-1962) and the rigorous ethical philosophy of social activist and Christian mystic Simone Weil (1909-1943) seem to belong to different worlds. Yet in the political ferment of 1930s Paris, Bataille and Weil were intellectual adversaries who exerted a powerful fascination on each other. Saints of the Impossible provides the first in-depth comparison of Bataille’s and Weil’s thought, showing how an exploration of their relationship reveals new facets of the achievements of two of the twentieth century’s leading intellectual figures, and raises far-reaching questions about literary practice, politics, and religion.

Considering the seeming antithesis between Weil’s heroic political engagement and Bataille’s antipolitical aestheticism, Saints of the Impossible brings out the insufficiently recognized performative dimension of Weil’s politics, while revealing the political reach of Bataille’s mystical writings. As it opens a new perspective on both Weil and Bataille, the book also points to a new way of understanding the uses and abuses of sacred power and the performative in an era of philosophical disorientation, social chaos, and war.


Saints of the Impossible

Alexander Irwin is assistant professor of religion at Amherst College and a research associate of the Boston-based Institute for Health and Social Justice.

Saints of the Impossible

Too often there is a tendency to examine intellectual projects in isolation; for some reason this is particularly true of analyses of writers of the 1930s and 1940s. Irwin, through superb scholarship, demonstrates the links between Bataille, Durkheim, Mauss, and Mounier, but where he breaks new ground is the extended linking of Weil and Bataille. This illuminating book considers these two supremely important intellects together and clearly demonstrates their rapports.

Allan Stoekl, Penn State University