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Klossowski & de Rougemont, "Tragedy"

Klossowski & de Rougemont, "Tragedy"

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1580SACREDSOCIOLOGYOFTHECONTEMPORARYWORLD
hisforthcoming
L'Amouretl'Occident.
Apossiblesecond:ThesessionofMay19was,saysKlossowski,"devotedtotragedy,"andthe
NRF
announcedinitsMaybulletin:"AttheCollegeofSociology,BatailleandCailloiswillspeakonthesubjectofmyth,"whichwouldcertainlyleadonetosupposeyetanothermeeting.]
WehavenowcometotheendofthecycleoflecturesbegunlastNovember.Idonotthinkitispointlesstorereadtodaythefirsttextthatunitedusandthatratherclearlyshowsthegoalwesetourselves.Idonotthinkitispointlessbe-causeitseemstomethat,toarathergreatextent,wehavecarriedouttheprojectweformulated,Iremindyouthat,aswemovedtowarditsrealization,webeganbyrefeningtotheresultsachievedbycontemporarysociology.
It
wasrightherethatCailloisenumeratedtheworksthathavebeenourpointsofdeparture.Thisenumerationwastoresultinthepublicationofabriefbibliography-whichwehavetempo-rarilyhadtoabandon,especiallybecauseofCaillois'sillness.Nonetheless,wegatheredquitealotofmaterial,ingoodenoughorderthatthispublicationcanbeenvisagedinthenearfuture."Sincethefactswereliedonwereclearenough,weattemptedtodefineourpersonalposition.Cailloisspokeofneo-organicismandbiologism.Withoutac-ceptingtoorestrictiveadefinition,itistrue,mystatementswerealongthesamelinesasCaillois's.Inanycase,wefollowDurkheiminagreeingthatthereissomethingotherthanasumofindividualactionsinthesocialphenomenon.Per-sonally,duringthenumerouspresentationsIcametobeinchargeof,
I
ttemptedtorepresentsocietyasafieldofforceswhosemovement,itistrue,canbedis-cemedinus,butforcesthatare,inanycase,extemaltotheneedsandconsciouswillofeachindividual.
I
nsistedonthefactthatateachlevelofbeings,fromatomtomolecule,frompolymolecularformationtomicellarformation,fromcelltoorganismandtosociety,thestructurescomposedaredifferentfromthesumoftheircomponentsinbeingjoinedbyan
overallmovement.
It
isthisover-allmovement,anditalone,thatdisappearswithourdeath.
If
youfollowme,therewouldnolongerbeanygroundstospeakoflifeasaprinciple.Norwouldtherebeanygroundsforplacingagivenformoflife,as,forexample,humanlife,onthesamelevelasthecellularprocessestowhichitseemspossibletore-duceit.Existencewouldchangenatureeachtimeitpassedfromonestructuralleveltothestructurallevelaboveit.Thiscomesdowntosayingthatthemole-culecomposedofatomsisaninconceivablerealityforamindthatknewonlyat-omsbecausethemolecule
adds
themolecular
overallmovement
toatoms.Fromonestagetothenext,fromstructuretomorecomplexstructure,itispossibletoarriveatsocietyandtoshowthattheprocessofnotseeingasocialphenomenonextemaltoindividualswouldbeasabsurdasnotseeing[...].
2
Tragedy
PierreKlossowskiandDenisdeRougemont
Thursday,May19,1938
[Th~programthe.CollegehadprintedlipforitsfirstsetoflecturesstoppedonApn!
2
(andBataille'sc~lItributiononthatdayrepeatedthatthiswasaclosingsesslo,~,[seethe
preceding
lecture].However,itsactivitiesresumedagainthefollOl.v/l1~monthandtwosessionswere,itseems,heldinMay.Theexactdateofthefirst
IS
notknown,butanoticepublishedintheApril
NRF
informsusthat".Batail/~,andCail/oisaretospeak
011
thesubjectofmythattheCollegeofSo-ciology.ThesecondtookplaceonMay
19
(Thursday,insteadoftheusualTI~esday).Klossowski,ill
LesNouvellesLettres,
introducingthetranslationofKierkegaardreadtherebyhim,givesthedetails:"Thepresenttextwasreadat
r:
Collegeo!SociologyonMay
19,1938,
atthesessiondevotedtotragedy,wahremarksfromGeorgesBataille,JeanWahl,andDenisdeRougemont."
.I.
011
thesubjectofthefirstofthesetwomeetings,therenewedinterestinthe-:Of'~l):thmustbementioned.Anthropologyismixedlipwithpolitics,andartWIth,:eltglOn.Cail~oishasjustbroughtout
LeMytheet
I
homme,
hisfirstbook(published
atGallimardon
March
28,1938),
andinthelastpagesof"TheSorc~rer'sApprentic~"(toappearillJulyill"ForaCollegeofSociology"),BatailletreatsextensivelywhatcouldbecalledthepoliticsofthemyththattheCollegehopedtouseasitsmodel.lilasimilarthoughlesservein,Guastallawillpublishthefollowingyear
LeMytheetlelivre
tobereadinpartatasessionoftheCollege.Mythpermeatestheatmosphere.Alexicalstudywouldnodoubtberevealing.Therearethosewhoreproachmodernlifeforhavinglostthesecretofmyth,whereasothers,onthecontrary,accuseitofrediscoveringit.Thedebate
159
 
160
0
TRAGEDY
swingsfrompoliticstothestudyofcustoms,from
MytheduXXesiecle
byRosenberg,theNazitheoretician,toLevy-Bruhl's
LaMythologieprimitive.
Asamplefollowsofthehundredsofexamplesofthispreoccupationwithmythofthelatethirtiestobefoundintablesofcontents.a.InJanuary
1938,Esprit
publishesalecturebyLandsberg,"Introduction
a
unecritiquedumythe,"inwhichtherenaissanceofmyths
is
denouncedas"theabsoluteendof
Westernactivism"
(pragmaticvalueslikeutility,andlifetakingawayanyrespectfortruth),GeorgesSorel
is
describedasthe''firstsociologistofmyth"and"themanofmyth,"asa
"mythomaniac
inJanet'ssense."TherefollowsadiscussionwithJeanLacroix,whoespeciallydenouncesthemodern[ormofmyththatthemythofthescienceofmythrepresents.Landsberggoesfur-ther:"WhatIreproachmodernmythsforislesstheirbeingmythsthantheirbe-ingfabricated,inauthenticmyths,productsofacynicallyconscious,pragmaticmythologism,makinguseofanapersonalmechanismofproganda."And:"Mythchangescharacterradicallyassoonasoneknowsit
is
amyth."Thestructureofthiscondemnationisliketheone(accordingtoCaillo
is)
madebyKojevewhenheobjectedtotheillusionsofBataille'ssorcerer'sapprentice:be-tweenfaithandknowledge,
tertiumnondatur.
Thesorcererknowstoomuchaboutittobetakeninhisowngame,and,whereasitispossibleforarticlesoffaithnottobecomecompletelydisruptedbyscience,thefactremainsthatonlyaperverseblindnesscanexpectthatscienceelaborateobjectsoffaith.Butbehindthiscondemnationofmodernmythsassuperficial,it
is
nothardtohearthenos-talgiaconfidentofatimeinwhichtheywouldhavebeennatural.MuchlesspessimisticthanLandsberg,Dumezilcelebrateswithenthusiasm(which
is
notsimplyepistemologic)therevivalofancientGermanmythsinthenationalsocialistspaceovertheRhine."The'beautifullegends'oftheGermanshavebeennotonlyrepopularizedbut
remythologized,"
hewritesin
MythesetdieuxdesGennains
(Paris
[1939J,
p.
155).
"Theyhavebecomeonceagainmythsinthestrictsense,becausetheyjustify,sustain,andprovokeindividualandcollectivebehaviorsallofwhicharecharacteristicofthesacred."ButnotallofDurkheim'sheirstookthingsaswell.Inhis
Memoires,
RaymondAroncitestwolettersinwhichMauss,withratherlessoptimismthanhiscomparatiststudentDumezil,mentionsthiscontinuation(orthisecho)ofcertainDurkheim-iantheories,whichhavecomeillcontactwiththeconcrete.IIINovember
1936:
"Thisreturntotheprimitivehasnotbeentheobjectofourreflections."InMay
1939:
thecourseofeventsseemstohim"toostrongaconfirmationofthingswehadshownandtheprooJthatweshouldhaveexpectedthemtobeverifiedthroughevilratherthanthroughgood"
(50ansdereflexionpolitique
[1983J,
p.71).AgoodarticlebyKoyrehadappearedin
1936
inthe
ZeitschriftSozialforschung('
'LaSociologiefrancoisecontemporaine"};theauthordemon-stratestherethat,politically,totalitarianism
is
what
is
behindtheDurkheimianschool'ssociologicalschemata.
TRAGEDY
0
161
WeshouldrememberherethattheCollegeojSociologyreproachedthetra-ditionalstudyojsocialphenomenaforbeing"toolimitedtotheanalysisojso-calledprimitivesocieties,whileignoringmodernsocieties"(see''ForaCollegeojSociology").This
is
notcompletelyuntrue.Butasuspicionhadalreadyarisenthattherewasacertaindangerousprimitivism
ill
modernity,Thereturnofmythwasoneojthemainsymptomsojthis.b.
Volontes,
inFebruary
1939,
publishesallarticlebyQueneau,"LeMytheet
I
'imposture."Asthetitlesufficientlyindicates,hetoolaysintothe
mytho-mania
ojhiscontemporaries:"Mythisanimposturewhenit
is
constructed,eitherbyreason,orbyantireason..Inoneinstanceitcanbenomorethananal-legoryatbest,andatworstatrap.Intheother,itcanbenomorethanthe
in-
consistentexpressionojmorethanoneindividualsubconscious.Thethirstformythsthatcurrently
is
foundinsome,otherwiseremarkable,intellects,seemstometoindicatea
lack,
thesignindeed,oftheinadequacyofanantirationalpo-sition.""Theyaspiretoinventmyths-butmythsarenotinvented.Eitheronefindsthemalive,inacommunityinwhichonereallyparticipates.Orelseonecanaspiretoa
revelation
towhichsomeonewhodeniesMoreinordertoadoreLess,whojeersatYesinordertobeswallowedupinNo,canonlyremainfor-eign."ThatBataille
is
thetargetoftheseremarkscallbeinferredbyareferencetotheguillotine:"Thereisnoantipathy,"saysQueneau,"betweenreasonandthatwhichexceedsit,whereasantireasononlycuresmyopiawithenucleationandheadacheswiththeguillotine."(Thearticle
is
reprinted
ill
LeVoyageenGrece.J
In
aJ!
earlierarticle
ill
Volontes
(Julie
1938),
Queneauspecificallycongrat-ulatesEtiembleandYassuGauclereJorthedemythificationojRimbaudbegunintheir
1936
book.Also
ill
1938,
Etiembleregisteredashisthesistopic
LeMythedeRimbaud,
whichhewoulddefendandpublish
ill
twovolumes
(Genesedumythe
and
Structuredumythe)
in
1952.
Heproposed1I0tonlytosetoutinsearchofamythlessRimbaudbut,moreambitiously,todescribeintheevolutionofthecult,withRimbaudasitsobject,thegenesisofamodernmyth."LeMythedeRimbaud'
is
employedasatitlebyEtielllbleforthefirsttimeinanarticlecontemporarywiththisproject,whichwaspublishedbythe
Revuedelitteraturecomparee
il}
January,
1939.
ToopposetheimageojasatanicorluciferianRimbaud,EtiemblereJerstoV.Cerny'sthesis
Oil
titanism,alsopresentedbyCaillois
ill
the
NRF
inNovember
1937
(referredtoinLewitzky,"Shamanism,"note
8).
This"MythofRimbaud"willbecome,bymeansoja
miseenabyme,
merelynumber
1,218
inthevastcompilationconstitutingthe
Genesedumythe,
thefirstvolumeoj
LeMythedeRimbaud.
Besidesthis
Rimbaud
writtenincollaborationwithY.Gauclere,Etiemblepublishedanovel,
L'Enfantdechoeur.
CloselyconnectedwiththeCommunists,heoccasionallycontributedto
Commune.
Hissignatureappearedintheonly
is-
sueof
Inquisitions
(heclaimspaternityojthe
s
ill
thetitle;see"DeuxMasques
 
1620TRAGEDY
deRogerCaillois,"illthehomagetoCailloisin
NRF
no.320[September,1979]).Hepublishedaratherpositivereviewoftheissueof
Acephale
entitled"Reparation
a
Nietzsche"
in
theApril
1937NRF.
WithadegreeingrammarlikeCaillois,in
1936
EtiembletaughtinthelyceeatBeauvaiswithhim.Butthefollowingyear,he
is
inChicago,wherehewillre-mainforseveralyears.TwoyearslaterhewritesfromtheretothankCaillois:"Yourfine
Ventd'hiver
remindsmethatIneverbelongedtotheNewChurch"
(RogerCaillois,Cahierspouruntemps
[CentreGeorgesPompidou],
1981,
p.207).AttheendofhisletterEtiemblementionswhathecalls''ourinvestigationsofthemythofRimbaud.'WhatpartdidCailloisplayinthisproject?It
is
afactthatEtiemble,whoseleftistintellectualismhadnotyetturnedintothatlimitedformofantibabelismcalled[ranglophobia,didnotbringmuchpataphysicalhu-morintohisdivestitureofRimbaldologicalhagiography.Asseriouslyasanantipope,heintended"tostudyeverythingtransformingRimbaudaccordingtothelawsofreligioussociology."
LeMythedeRimbaudis
literaryhistoryintheserviceofreligioushistory,DowehavetospecifythatevenifhispresenceinParishadledhimtomixmorecloselywiththeCollege,Etiemble'sMarxisizingVoltaireanism,wouldhavehadsomedifficultybeingsympathetictocertainhar-monicvibrationsheardthere.Thissaid,thenameshementionsintheintroduc-tiontohisthesis,Dumeril,Mauss,Caillo
is,
showthathewassteepedinthesamesortofbibliography.WhenEtiemblewasinChicago,Paulhanhadthe
NRF
regularlydeliveredtohimandaskedhisopinionontheCollege'sevents(JeannineKohn-Etiemble,
2261ettresineditesdeJeanPaulhan
[Paris,
1975],
p.165;noneofEtiemble'srepliesarepublished).
c.
In
Europe,
inJune
1939,
Sartre
is
evenmoreexplicitinattackingmyth'svogue.SpeakingofDenisdeRougement'sbook
L'Amouretl'Occident
(whichhelinkstoCaillois'
s
work),thewrites:"Thisnotionofmyth,moreover,
is
itselfaproductoftheperiod,andonemuchinfashioneversinceSorel.Wasn'titJean-RichardBloch,notlongago,whocalledforamythforthetwentiethcen-tury?Anddidn'tAndreMalraux,infact,discussmyths
of
loveintheprefacehewroteforatranslationofD.H.Lawrence?Thishasgonesofarthattoday,1fear,there
is
amythofmyth,whichshould,itself,betheobjectofasociologicalstudy"(reprintedin
Situations,
vol.
1
[Paris,1947]).11.TheMay
19,1938,
sessionwasdevotedtotragedy,athemealreadytakenupduringseveraloftheprecedingmeetingsoftheCollege.Therewerefourspeakers:Klossowski,Bataille,Wahl,deRougemont.DenisdeRougemontgiveshisownreportofthecircumstancesofhisinter-ventionduringthesessionheldbytheCollegethatday.Hehadjustlaunchedintowriting
L'Amouretl'Occident.
"FromtheendofFebruarytothebeginningofMay,
1
wrotebooksIthroughV.InMay,asexpected,
1
gavefourlecturesillSwitzerland,apresentationofbookVonLoveandWaratBatailleandCaillois'sCollegeofSociology,andwrotealongarticleonnazismbasedonmyFrankfurt
TRAGEDY0163
notes:Thiswillbethecentraltextofmy
Journald'Allemagne.
FromtheendofMaytothetwentiethofJune,inalittlechateaunearBrunoy,
1
completedbooksVIandVII,thepreface,andthefinalrevisionofthetypedtext.TheeveningofJune
21,
summersolstice,Day'slasttriumphoveraNightwhoserulewillslowlyspreadrightintothevelYheartofthecomingsummer,theygave
Tristan
attheOpera.Itookthelasttwofreeseats."Thisnoteappearsillthepagesentitled"Vel'slaguerre"inthevolume
Jour-nald'uneepoque(1926-1946)
where,in
1968,
theauthorgatheredhiscomplete(andslightlyaugmented),lessprivatethanpersonaljournalsofthepastfortyyears:
LePaysanduDanube(1926-1929),
the
Journald'unintellectuelenchom-age(1933-1935)
the
Journald'Allemagne(1935-1936),
andthe
Journaldesdeuxmondes(1939-1946).
ThelastofthesewaswritteninhistravelsbetweenEuropeandthetwoAmericasduringthewar.HewasinNorthAmerica,landinginNewYorkinSeptember1940,butalsoinSouthAmericawhereVictoriaOcampo,di-rectorof
SUR,
invitedhimtogiveaseriesoflecturesinBuenosAiresduringSeptember
1941.
TherehehadoccasiontomeetCaillois,withwhomhepartic-ipatedinseveralroundtablediscussions(see
SUR,
no.
84
[September
1941]).
BorninSwitzerlandin1906andapracticingprotestantfamiliarwithGermanculture,DenisdeRougemontwasafrequentpresence,fromabout
1936
on,atthe
NRF,
wherePaulhanentrustedhimtoputtogetheramemorable"Cahierdesrevendications."HeretheclaimsandprotestsoftenorsoyoungdiscontentsfromNizantoThien),Maulnier,andincludingrepresentativesfromdiverseper-sonalistorvoluntariststrains,promiseddemocracyacertainnumberofchangesthathadnothingincommonotherthanthattheycalledthemselvesradical.AcloseacquaintanceofMeunier's,deRougemontwouldcontributeto
Esprit
aswell.His
Politiquedelapersonne,
followedby
Penseraveclesmains(1936),
madehimoneofthemostvisiblepropagandistsfortheintellectual'sengage-ment.Theperiodofcompulsoryleisure,towhichhis
Journald'unintellectuelenchomage
(journalofanunemployedintellectual)owesitstitle,cametoanendwhenOttoAbetr,therepresentativeoftheNazipartytotheParisianintellectu-als,proposedthatdeRougemontteachFrenchliteratureforayear
(1935-36)
asanassistantattheUniversityofFrankfurt.The
Journald'Allemagne
wouldre-sultfromthisstay.
It
appearedatGallimardsometwoyearslater
(1938)
atthemomenttheMunichcrisisflaredup.DenisdeRougemont,asmentioned,com-pletedthefinalversionofthisworkjustafterhavingspokenbeforetheCollege.DenisdeRougemontcamebackwithalessonfromthisyearspentwiththeNazis,orputanotherway,this
Erlebnis
ofnazism:Democraciesmustimmedi-ately,atanycost,resolveareligiousproblem(notasocialoreconomic,norevenapoliticalone),which,however,theyarenotyetevencapableofseeing.Apageofhis
Journald'Allemagne,
onthispoint,stronglyechoesthedominantpreoccupationsoftheCollege.It
is
called"UneCeremoniesacree"(Asacredceremony).GermantroopshavejustreoccupiedtheleftbankoftheRhineinthe

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