Fluid ontology: Sexual phenomenology; Bataille, Beauvoir and the use of Sade

Lloyd, Martyn (2010). Fluid ontology: Sexual phenomenology; Bataille, Beauvoir and the use of Sade. In: Transgression and Discipline in the History of Sexuality, Prato, Italy, (). 13-15th September 2010.

Author Lloyd, Martyn
Title of paper Fluid ontology: Sexual phenomenology; Bataille, Beauvoir and the use of Sade
Conference name Transgression and Discipline in the History of Sexuality
Conference location Prato, Italy
Conference dates 13-15th September 2010
Publication Year 2010
Sub-type Published abstract
Language eng
Formatted Abstract/Summary
"Transgression, Freedom, and the Meaning of Sade"
Foucault is the singular dominant figure for understandings of sexuality in the modern academy. The manner of his location of the sexual in historically contingent factors has provided, as a moment of theory, a vantage point from which it is possible to look both backwards and forwards; backwards to the history of sexuality and to the study of particular instances of the production of the sexual: forwards to current modes of construction and to sites of resistance. In this paper I will draw attention to another moment of theory, one which is qualitatively very different from Foucault’s even if it is not particularly historically distant from it. In this paper I shall discuss existential phenomenology and its understanding of the sexual. This paper will culminate with an examination of the work of Simone de Beauvoir, particularly her Ethics of Ambiguity and her essay on Sade; it will begin with the complex and influential figure of Georges Bataille. Bataille is difficult to locate in terms of the broader movements of twentieth-century theory, but his thought is in close proximity to, and often thematically continuous with, phenomenology. Bataille’s influence on post-structuralism and post-modernism has been much touted; this paper will trace his influence on, and interaction with, an earlier generation of theory, that of the 1940s and 1950s. The point this paper will demonstrate is this: in terms of the history of philosophy, France of the mid- to late-twentieth century can be understood to be a high point in terms of theorising the sexual. Here philosophical anthropologies which understand the self or subject as being fundamentally ambiguous, for de Beauvoir, or heterogeneous for Bataille – that is: as fundamentally fluid – are brought together with theoretical discourses that attach increased importance to the sexual subject, to sexuality, or to the erotic. The sexual subject is understood as fundamentally fluid; the fluid subject is understood as paradigmatically sexual. And, following his “discovery” by the Surrealists, Sade becomes theoretically necessary as he is broadly taken to be the moment of the erotic par excellence. This nexus has proven to be highly influential for contemporary academic understandings of the sexual. There is a stark difference, needing to be more clearly marked, between this and understandings of sexuality in terms of bio-power or the technologies of the self.
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Document type: Conference Paper
Collection: School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry
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Created: Fri, 25 Mar 2011, 15:03:24 EST by Ms Jean Barkhuizen on behalf of School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry