You are on page 1of 23



Archeo-logies of Modernity in transition

and Documents 1929/30

The history of the twentieth-century avant-garde, from its wildly iconoclastic teens to the fifties and beyond, can well be discussed as a function
of its fascination with the non-Western primitive (prehistoric life worlds,
myths and art). In fact, the avant-gardes historical trajectory enacted
Rimbauds postulate of the absolutely modern as the flip side of the
desire for the absolutely primitive. The primitivist vision provided the
intoxication of forgetting the burden of conceptual, historical and moral
memory, and it freed the intellect for a critique of Western rationalist
subjectivity. Absolutely modern was the vantage point of a radically
aesthetic relation to the world, the aesthetic experience being for Nietzsche
the essential, metaphysical activity of life, for Gottfried Benn the
final metaphysical activity, for Rimbaud, later Dada or in Oswald
Spenglers scheme of decadence, the stage before a debunking of art altogether. Delinked from the rational and moral, the aesthetic intuition rendered a site from which the identity of Western cultural traditions and
institutions appeared to the European avant-garde, Italian Futurism, Expressionism, Dada and Surrealism, as strange and unfamiliar as the sight
of exotic cultures had once appeared to the Western explorer. By the
same token, the insight into primitive cultures was to produce universal
images of kinship, of familiarity. A crucial paradox was that the exclusivity of the aesthetic vantage point was an eminently Western product of a
lengthy evolution and emancipation of art from the communal religious
context to the autonomy of art.
Two of the most important interwar magazines of the avant-garde
published in Paris represent a typological constellation in this cultural
Copyright 2000 The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.



space of a primitivist vision: transition, offering a pronounced universalist point of view of artistic creativity, and Documents, the agenda of a
total critique of Western ideology, includingat least per programthat
of the aesthetic privilege invoked by the former journal. Documents (1929/
30) was edited by Georges Bataille in co-operation with Michel Leiris
and, what is rarely acknowledged in French and Anglo-American criticism, in its planning and earliest stage1 by the brilliant German poet and
essayist Carl Einstein who still awaits his international recognition. It
remains to be seen how Einstein, a steady contributor to Documents, could
function at the same time as advisory editor and author to Eugene Jolass
transition (19271938).2 My focus on these journals activities at the end
of the twenties and the beginning of the thirties, during the Great Depressionyears of economic, political, and intellectual crisiswill
amount to a comparison and contrast of two sides of the avant-garde. As
much as such a first focus on the two journals allows, it is centered on the
avant-gardes relation to logos (the word) as a relatively late, cerebral
expression of man and the primordial image. Jolas, the Man from Babel,
pursued an idealist vision of a multi-lingual, transnational, universalist
poetic language for modernity. Bataille, on the other hand, engaged in
an aggressively anti-humanist, anti-idealist, anti-formalist, in this sense
anti-aesthetic project which valorized the shocking, jarring moment of
the physiological image, including bloody images of prehistorical human
sacrifice, images of body parts and excretory functions. In sum, while
Documents implicitly sought to overturn Western core values by revitalizing the early avant-gardes shock strategies with its goals to make the
familiar strange, transitions mission was to make the strange familiar
to a wider transatlantic audience (especially to the conservative American cultural sphere).
Both journals were manifestations of a relatively late phase of the
avant-garde; their programs, however, were ultimatelyalbeit in greatly
varying degreesless radical than they proposed to be. The early avantgardes events were concretely staged for the sublation of art into life,
thus contesting aesthetic autonomy through performance as praxis. The
later avant-garde was mostly theorizing against the institutions of modernity, thereby nolens volens subject to a return of the repressed scientific
and moral vision. Besides, Jolass journal was rooted in the Western idea
of art as a spiritual, quasi-ethical experience, while Batailles indulged in
an unacknowledged practice of an aesthetics of the ugly, amply illustrated by glossy photos of big toes, spitting mouths, cut-off goats hoofs,
Siamese twins, shrunken heads, etc. In fact, the reader/viewer of his journal encounters a series of thematically related images of physiological



decompositions (rather than isolated moments of shock). These images

can, after all, not erase the aesthetic principle of composition manifestly
suggested by the many other images, often reproductions of modern art
works that could have adorned the pages of the later purely aestheticallyoriented journal Minotaure. On these grounds I cannot share Denis
Holliers assessment of the Documents project as decidedly anti-aesthetic.3
That the aesthetic remains a vantage point is quite obvious in Batailles
valorization of Picassos paintings as a model for the elaboration (sic) or
decomposition of forms in contemporary art.4 And in the extreme of
Batailles dialectical anti-moral stance, the moral resurfaced through its
pronounced negation. Above all, both journals invoked for the purposes
of authentication an ethnographic point of view, however widened in a
surrealist engagement of myth which sublates (aufheben) the subject
matter of myth into its method. By that I mean that they employed mythical thought with its uniquely comprehensive rationale for a critique of
the reductive function of rationalism. I here differ with Holliers rejection of James Cliffords term of a surrealist ethnography 5 which I retain
for the most advanced positions of creative thinkers like Bataille, Leiris,
and Einstein. Finally, the growing pressures of the political barbarism
and nationalist, racist myth-making propaganda of Nazism and fascism
ultimately threatened the very space of the freedom of difference provided by the bourgeois culture against which the primitivist vision of
the avant-garde had turned. Both Jolas and Bataille were to rally to the
qualified support of that culturein their divergent ways.
Archeologies of the Human Sciences
Jolass transition had many more agenda than Documents as it programmatically focused on Joyce, publishing his Work in Progress (Finnegans
Wake), and the major representatives of Surrealism and Expressionism.
Yet transitions primitivist project, if much less focused than that of Documents, was not only sizable, but also of formative significance for the journal. transitions primitivist program intersects with that of Documents in
the reprint of the images of masks and many other artifacts of African,
pre-Columbian, or Oceanic origin, reproductions of paintings by Picasso,
Andr Masson, or Joan Mir, and articles that place the work of these
artists in affinity to the primitive. Also included are numerous translations of African songs, magic spells, and legends (recorded by the German ethnologist Leo Frobenius). There are two contributions by Michel
Leiris, like Einstein, concurrently a major force behind Documents: From
the Heart to the Absolute, an excerpt from his novel Le Point Cardinal,



and a poem. Both texts evoke a dreamscape of primordial battles, eros

and thanatos.6 Through these reprints, translations, and articlessince
1933, reserved for a section of the journal occasionally entitled Documentstransition intended to document a universal relation between
the modern and primitive mind.
transitions fascination with the non-Western primitive, may most
recently have once more been reconfirmed with the monumental MOMA
exhibition Primitivism in Twentieth Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal
and the Modern (1984-85). In fact, the organizers juxtaposition and
coordination of modern art and tribal, primitive art was to demonstrate a
formal, aesthetic elective affinity,7 as stated by William Rubin in the
introduction to the exhibits catalogue. Rubins appraisal of the term affinity as an essentialist, universalist relation appears to be identical to the
view taken in transition. An important historical and qualitative distinction is given by the fact that Jolas transition vision may have anticipated,
whether he wanted it or not, the acceptance of the once subversive, now
abstract avant-garde as the official Western culture after WWII and
the Cold War in the late 1940s and 1950s. In view of changed historical
conditions, Rubins universalist point of view (profoundly learned) is astoundingly uncritical for the 1980s, informed by a growing postcolonial
critique of Western culture. A case in point for the legacy of transitions
position is the continuity of Jungian thought (reflecting a need for the
spiritual in art and man specifically during times of political crisis) from
Jolas to New York Abstract Expressionism, into the postwar era. Indeed, one took recourse to philosophical absolutes and a scientizing appeal to ultimate natural truths. 9 By contrast, Batailles poststructalist
project of a hard primitivism (Rosalind Krauss) most prominently still
informs our current academic debates about the perverse relation of
the Western institutionsincluding that of arttheir humanist, enlightened ideas and ideologies to underlying instincts of power, sexuality and
violence. Obviously, some of Foucaults thought can be traced directly to
Bataille, as acknowledged for example in The Order of Things. An Archeology of the Human Sciences (1966; English translation 1971). There he
invokes the counter-sciences of psychoanalysis and ethnography, subsequently surrealism, and the writings of Artaud, Bataille, and Blanchot
for the ultimate task of dissolving as a pious wish the idea of a human
nature and the identity of man himself as constructed in the other
human sciences.10
By comparison it becomes apparent that Jolass intention was to realign the wildly subversive, amoral, quasi-pagan discourse of the avantgarde with a longstanding metaphysical, meaning also ethical, Western



tradition. transition also attempted to ally avant-garde aesthetics with the

scientific discourse of contemporaneous ethnology. Since Boas,
Malinowski, or Lvy-Bruhl, in the early years of the century, this relatively new academic discipline was engaged in its own professional task
to make the strange familiar. In sum, Jolass poetology of the avantgarde is linked with the politics (in the widest sense of the word) of the
reintegration of the language and images of avant-garde literature and
art into Western philosophical and scientific, psychoanalytic and ethnological traditions. Such a conservative, if not eclectic, goal gave to art
altogether within a longstanding Romantic traditionthe power of the
highest value. The supremacy of art has been, and for some still is, clearly
a cornerstone of the construct of Western cultural identity. Western culture subjected everything from the outside, to its self-interest, meaning
its interest in a progressively developing and expanding Western self. For
instance, tribal African art became synonymous with the primitive in
the sense of original, while modernity meant estrangement from origins. In short, Jolass primitivist program, when it transplanted tribal artifacts and texts from its collective ritual contexts into the familiar
space of Western art, albeit avant-garde art, can be understood as a wellintentioned mission that, however inadvertently, was part of a Eurocentric
(some critics would say colonialist) venture. Any widened discussion
of this issue would have to expand on the fact that primitive societies
had apparently no exclusive term for art delinked from the religious or
useful, which does not mean that they did not have a sense of beauty.
As Leiris himself points out in his late postsurrealist phase, the quality of
a uniquely crafted item could very well be the grounds on which its appreciation shifted from the objects utilitarian function into an aesthetic
space, albeit by no means one of aesthetic autonomy.11 On the whole, it
is safe to say that tribal societies regarded aesthetic production as just
one activity among others. Clearly, the idea to link and endow the art
with the heavy burden of essential values such as truth is unique to our
By contrast to transitions universalist vision of art, Documents, a journal for Archologie, Beaux-Arts, Ethnographie, Varits, attempted
at least per programto maintain if not deepen the provocative, shocking thrust of the surrealist strategies against the institution of art. It did
so preeminently through its ethnographic turn of pitting a works function and use value 12 against aesthetic autonomy. Surrealism as a movement came relatively late, around 1924, onto the avant-garde scene. It
had its farthest roots, of course, in Romanticism, and may have been
anticipated in terms of its associative, automatic linguistic techniques



and its disposition to the unconsciousduring the First World War

not only by Dada, but by some of the best early writings of Gottfried
Benn. Upon Einsteins advice Jolas had translated some of Benns wartime texts (such as The Birthday, or The Island) for the first issues of
his journal. Even though Jolas translated and published major Surrealist
texts, he distanced himself quite soon from Breton, missing the spiritual in his productions.13 Batailles contributions to Documents exploited
and expanded surrealisms amoralism, in the extreme, to what is normatively considered obscene. Yet, Documents agenda, too, were somewhat,
if idiosyncratically, secured, historically and scientifically, in the contemporaneous ethnographic perspective of the other contributors.
Among these were Michel Leiris, and Carl Einstein. Einstein had authored
an early pioneering cubist interpretation of Negerplastik (1915). While
19th-century ethnologists had assessed and classified primitive artifacts
as fetishes, objects of inferior cultures, this treatise had raised them
for the first time to the status of artakin, but theoretically superior to
the primitivist discourse of German Expressionism. Einsteins subsequent
Afrikanische Plastik (1921; in French translation 1922), began to reverse
his former claims for aesthetic autonomy, turning to ethnographic questions posed by African sculpture. Yet it would be a mistake to altogether
identify this historically and sociologically oriented position with the
later ethnographic dimension of Documents. Only Einsteins later ethnology of the white man,14 exemplified by the essays on Andr Masson:
tude ethnologique, (published in Documents 2, 1929), on Joan Mir
(Papiers colls la galerie Pierre)(Documents 4, 1930), or by Hans Arp,
Lenfance nolithique (Documents 8, 1930) epitomized the most radical aspect of the journal, namely to turn ethnography against Western
civilization itself.
On this count, it ought to be noted foremost that the discipline of
ethnography in France was still relatively undefined in its boundaries as
a social science, and thus quite open to aesthetic discourses. This meant
that its ethnological point of view was not yet always distinctly separated
from an aesthetic vision, as such cultivated by Documents surrealist ethnography (as James Clifford characterizes the journals disposition).15
French ethnography, like the Parisian Institut dEthnologie just established in 1925, received a major influx from dissident Surrealist writers
like Bataille and Leiris who previously had abandoned Bretons ideologically restricted camp, and from Einstein.16
They started the magazine Documents with Leirisupon its demise
in 1930joining the first major French fieldwork expedition to DakarDjibouti(19311933). This state-financed mission paradoxically gave



Leiris the occasion to further test and explore his surrealist, anticolonialist attitudes (in the service of French colonialism), as revealed
in his travelogue LAfrique Fantome (1934).
Archeo-logies of Modernity
In the following, I will contextualize Jolass spiritual vision of the primitive as a universal in reference to five texts, all written during the crisis
years 192933. These texts deal with the image of mankind from an anthropological/ethnological and poetological view. In the center of my
reading will be the tension between logos (the word) as a relatively late,
cerebral expression of man and the primordial image, as thematized by
the avant-garde itself. The texts are testimony to what I here call avantgarde archeo-logies of modernity. They are Gottfried Benn, The Structure of the Personality (Outline of the Geology of the I), translated by
Jolas for transition 21, (March 1932), and Jolass corresponding essay The
Primal Personality (published in transition 22, February 1933, just after
Hitlers coming to power which Benn supported). Thirdly Jolass prose
poem Andr Masson, (transition 15, February 1929), which I will contrast with Carl Einsteins Andr Masson: tude ethnologique, published
in Documents 2, 1929), and finally Georges Batailles provocative Le
Gros Orteil (The Big Toe) published in Documents (6, November 1929).
Gottfried Benns 1930 essay, which bears the subtitle Outline of a
Geology of the I, was a revaluation of the modern cogito ergo sum of
Western man, a rejection of the logocentric experience of the cortex of
the big brain as a late development within human evolution. It valorized the bodily experience, of the glands, nerves and ganglia, with its
imprinted memory of the evolution from animal to man. Hence the question whether there would not come, in a further grand anthropological
mutation, a transition to a time that will once more give voice to the
culturally suppressed archaic brain-kernel, the site of a collective unconscious, which the intellective great brain had overgrown. This was
exactly Jolass question, as his essay The Primal Personality, in opening
transitions section Laboratory of the Mystic Logos, also cited Jung, and
Lucien Lvy-Bruhls monumental La Mentalit Primitive showed
the thinking methods of the primitive to be pre-logical ones. This
fact, he says, explains why in the few still existing tribes of savages
we are face to face with the capacity for mystic participation, a



capacity which modern man has practically lost. Only the creative mind has here and there retained it.17
In short, Jolas envisions for modern man a renewed participation
mystique with the lost prelogical experience through a Revolution of
the Word, for which idea Jolas frequently invoked the authority of Benn.18
Avant-garde poetry would reunite, in transcendence, the subject with
the object as part of the self (a decidedly Romantic outlook that attached
Jolas to his favorite German poet Novalis for life). By contrast, Benn, by
profession a medical doctor specializing in venereal diseases, fully acknowledges the terrifying role of the body in the human experience:
Far removed from human accessibility and understanding, the Soma . . .
carries the mysteries, age-old, alien, untransparent, wholly turned back
to its origins.19 Due to his religious, Catholic upbringing and Romantic
literary predilection, Jolas was dissatisfied with the irrationalism of the
telluric alone. He finds his transcendental vantage pointwhich he
misses in Surrealism as influenced by Freudtypically in C. G. Jungs
ancient mythological archetypes. Jolas understands the primal image as a sign, and symbol, retrievable to modernist literary representation:
The creation of a new mythological mother-world is possible
through the search for the inner meaning of life, through the search
for the sign, the symbol, the primal image and sound. The search
for God.
It is Jolass starry-eyed idealism and his stalwart belief in the universality
of art that allows him to side with (and significantly misunderstand) Benns
assessment that the new mans chief characteristic will be a violent
revolt against the intellect.20
When the modern subject is no longer understood as master in his
house, the bodily unconscious projects, as in dreams, nightmares, or art
produced in the concrete jungle of the modern technopolis, its alogical
images against the conceptuality of the word. The second issue of Documents (1929) features, besides an essay by Leiris, Carl Einsteins amply
illustrated Andr Masson, tude ethnologique. Einsteins essay, a prime
example of his ethnology of the white man, commences with the provocative assertion, unmatched by any avant-garde critic of the avantgarde in the late twenties, that in this generation the literati are
strenuously limping behind the painters. While the painters dared to
change traditional grammar, the former in the best of cases went as far



as to change an adjective: But who would put into question the hierarchy of psychological values and logic itself? These writers are prisoners of
words. Einsteins attack on writing as representation constitutes a paradigm shift from Hugo von Hofmannsthals language crisis at the turn-ofthe-century (articulated in the Chandos Letter, 1902): the critic aims
at the radical displacement of the literary word with the visual image. In
view of the fact that transition was publishing the 15th installment of
Joyces Work in Progress, or in view of the literary work being produced
by contemporaneous surrealists, the attack appears to be a polemic which
adds insult to injury. Instead of risking their heads, the writers believed
in language,21 Einstein writesin the past tense. And this assault on
the written word, on literature and literary culture as the prison house
of language, comes from Jolass advisory editor and one of the future
signatories of Poetry is Vertical (transition, 21, March 1932: 148-49).
The statement Poetry is Vertical will expand on the journals fundamental proclamation of the Revolution of the Word (transition 16/17
June 1929), emphasizing the upward mission of poetry toward the illumination of a collective reality and a totalistic universe.
And what exactly does Einstein mean by the prescription for aesthetic production, that one should risk ones head (meaning to forgo
writing)? To begin with, he perceives the surrealist painter Masson as
creating, or re-creating, from a visual memory that has altogether forgotten consciousness. By contrast, literary surrealism was eminently interested in a synthesis of the conscious with the unconscious, as
documented in automatic writing that is, after all, readable,if in a
jarring way. Hence one would expect that Massons paintings are egocentric,22 or solipsistic, which would be the consequence of the subjects
withdrawal from an outside. On the contrary, it is a matter of a hallucinatory dissolution of the inside/outside dualism, recreating a stage
before the differentiation of a subject from the object (in Freudian terms,
the state of oceanic feeling before the separation of an ego from the
id). According to Einstein, Massons paintings enact a self-sacrifice,
they spontaneouslypreempting conscious mediationproject collective images from the memory of the body (for Benn somatic Urbilder).
The painters self surrenders in the act and action of painting to the experience of ecstacy,23 in the sense of standing outside of the intelligible self. In this eminently psychophysiological site, a zone before the
differentiation of the mental perceptual processes from the bodily, seeing
is an act of the primal imagination of the senses. For Einstein the senses
make sense in terms of human evolution: The primal imagination claims
its site before as well as after the late individuated, distanced subjects



seeing and representation. Einstein designates this site in the instance of

Massons paintings as a doubled site of infantile . . . forms and experiences which are reproduced with great technical refinement, the fruit
of ecstatic training. The result is a form of second innocence. In this
sense the modern artist is a doubled child (double-infant).24 In other
words, the development of the surrealist artists work requires a series of
individual tudes, each an instance of ecstatic training, an experimental step in the cultivation of the technical ability to recreate prelogical
experiences at will. Seven years later, Jacques Lacans lecture on The
Mirror Stage(held in 1936), in the wake of his reading of Freud and in
affinity to surrealist circles,25 will address the issue of the pre-logical infantile experience in psycholinguistic terms. Lacan, departing from
Marcel Mausss anthropology of language and Claude Lvy-Strausss structural analysis of myth and the symbol, will develop a model of the relations between the unconscious and the conscious. In this space the
encounter of the infant with his mirror image leads toward the formation
of a primordial form of identity within a symbolic matrix.26 That identity is already the product of a distorted relation (of reversed reflection),
a principle alienation even before the entering of the symbolic order of
language which establishes the subject. By contrast, Einstein, risking
his head, went into the opposite direction of later Lacan. In search of
authenticity he shifted his attention to a stage before the selfs symbolic
relation to Umwelt, focusing on a pre-mirror stage, we might say in
hindsight. Here it is most important to know that at the turn of the decade, the theorist Einsteinin an intense personal crisishad come to
judge the language-poet Einstein a failure, the result of his obsession with
the failure of language in terms of original experience.27 Hence his invective against the writers as prisoners of words, and his embrace of the
surrealist painters at the beginning of the essay. He had become increasingly tired of what he calls the allegory of language (in its negative meaning different from Benjamins contemporaneous use and understanding
of the term), and has become fixated on what he calls in the essay on
Masson the sequence of psychologically direct signs.28 To be sure, Einstein
was hyper-aware that language is a system of arbitrary signs. In Documents this is attested to by his contributions to the Dictionnaire critique, one of which analyzes Nightingale not as a bird, but as a system
of petrified signifiers, as a moral paraphrase of the erotic, a substitute
for rose, or breasts, never for legs, never for legs (nor for big toes).
The nightingale is an allegory, he writes, an ornamental motif, a surrogate and device to mask, sublimate, and suppress hallucinatory processes that threaten the identity of the subject.29 Yet, emotionally and



intellectually, he is not satisfied with a critique of the metaphysics of

language, deconstructive avant la lettre. In the essay on Masson, Einstein
thus attempts to do the impossible. He tries to theoretically address (in
terms that implicitly reach from Ernst Machs turn-of-the-century Analysis of the Senses to Lvy-Bruhls definition of a primitive participation
mystique30) a space of eidetic signs, in his words, psychologically direct
signs. These he perceives to surface in the painters psychogram of
hallucinatory processes. Einstein envisions the impossiblenamely an
original, authentic meaning of signs. Of course, Einstein knows images
to be signs, yet he envisions direct signs, in terms of human development prior to what he calls typical signs, meaning conventional constructs.
Lacan will later fully address the experiences of sight, touch, and
sound that constitute sensory responses to the Umwelt in the pre-mirror stage as a web of images and letters, as corporeal, unconscious
signifiers.31 For Einstein, the surrealist painter can recreate a pre-logical
state which he describes in relatively rudimentary terms: The human
being no longer observes. It lives in the circle of objects which have become psychological functions.32 For Einsteins surrealist ethnographic
point of view, Massons paintings liquidate the individuals perspectivist
seeing, constructed since the Renaissance as so-called naturalistic seeing. They reinscribe a collective vision before the inside/outside split
through a symbolic matrix( Lacan): The human being and the object
form a unity, and we assume a totemistic identification, Einstein writes.
He goes on to point out:
And in this sense would I like to interpret the fish-men, the dying birds and leaf-animals in the paintings of Masson. His animals
are identifications in which one projects the experience of death
in order not to be killed oneself.23
In Einsteins view, Massons paintings thus constitute the self-sacrifice
of the modern self (while in prehistoric collective eras the individual was
sacrificed by the community). With the death of consciousness as conceptual, temporal, historical memory, the repressed collective unconscious
returns to life as a primal visual memory of totemistic images. For Einstein
(unlike for Jolas), this visual memory cannot be read in Jungian archetypal images. After all, archetypal images are to represent various spiritual aspects and certain significations of an a priori universal unconscious.
Totemistic images, on the other hand, are heterogeneous, bodily images of a primordial identification with the Umwelt (in Einsteins words



psychologically direct signs). They structure the unconscious semiotically,

in what Lacan later recognized as hallucinatory representational chains,
before the symbolic order of the three-dimensional, perspectivist representation of the world and its conceptualization through the word.34 In
this sense Massons paintings subvert the boundariesbetween flora,
fauna, and the human subject (fishhumans, leaf-animals), the animate and the inanimate (stars and stones)as linguistic constructs.
In short, for the Einstein of the Masson essay, the sacrifice of narration for the image is the self-sacrifice of the modern subject in order not
to be killed by logic (the logic of the three-dimensional image and the
conceptual word). This is what he meant by his somewhat innocuous
and opaque opening phrase that contemporary aesthetic production, if
up to date, has to risk [its] head. To risk ones head (in the French
version parier la tte, in the essays German version den Kopf einsetzen),
however, does not simply signify loss but simultaneously activation
(Einsatz) of ones head, as Massons work is the result of a conscious effort, of an ecstatic training.
Einsteins head is a Janus head, its divergent views recapitulate the
difference between Jolass transition and Batailles Documents, the difference between composition and decomposing. Einsteins criticism in the
late twenties still oscillates between these two views. From one point of
view, the act of aesthetic composition is a sacrifice of the hallucinatory
forces into tectonic forms, thus we have the traces of a subjects taking
refuge in tectonic order. 35 In precariously (consciously so) hanging on
to the terms of a subjects aesthetic order, the critic Einstein at this
risky point manifests the traces of his idealist legacy which is closer to
Bretons (or main stream surrealisms) than Batailles understanding of
Massons paintings. Breton, the surrealist mastermind, will (ten years later
in an article in Minotaure) speak of Massons paintings fixing the moment when the living being achieves consciousness except for a dialectic
fixing of the moment when that same being loses consciousness.36 I take
this statement to be akin to Einsteins construct of psychologically direct signsbecause in both instances we are dealing with an attempt to
address the sliding, metamorphotic relation between the conscious (sign)
and the unconscious (image), body and mind. For his interpreters, the
surrealist painter recreates an original metamorphotic relation of man
and his world. The dissident surrealist Bataille will, at the same time, put
the painter beyond pure surrealism to the extent that his workdifferent from automatic writing, he claimsno longer disengages itself from
the world, but integrates with it by invading it. For Bataille, the painters
work is a complete entity beyond any and all dialectics. It is a totality



which is neither limited by discursive thought, nor by the automatism of

dreams, the impossibility of which is that the intellect can neither
define this experience nor can it be extracted from it.37 In his essay Pablo
Picasso. Quelques tableaux de 1928 (documents 1, 1929: 3538), for example, Einstein coincided with this other, anti-idealist point of view by
declaring the end of architectonic optical movements and the convention of the spine (i.e., the elevated head). In Batailles terms, then,
life is revitalized by the selfs sacrifice of its head.
Modern consciousness is devolved into the completeness of the headless body, the acphalethe leitmotif of Georges Batailles work, of
Documents idiosyncratic mythology, and the image that Masson sketches
for the frontispiece of Batailles later journal Acphale (June 1936 June
1939). Massons acphale is the image of the headless muscular male body,
erect, arms spread horizontally, one hand holding a flaming torch, the
other a short sword; the skull in the place of the genitals, stars instead of
the nipples, the belly translucent to its labyrinthine intestines. On first
sight, the image may invite to be viewed as an illustration of the energycharged process that Walter Benjamin in his 1929 essay on surrealism
had called a profane illumination, in which the intellect is fused with
the bodily in a hundred-percent image realm. Yet Massons image is
much more determined by the sacred than Benjamins dialectical, albeit messianic, thinking, which made the philosopher critic view the
activities of the College with a great deal of distanced curiosity,38 and it
does not at all agree with Einsteins outright secular disposition as a critic.
The German-Jewish intellectual Carl Einstein who had left Berlin for
Paris already in 1928, was at home neither in Jolass nor in Batailles
journal. A secret agent of, and simultaneously defector from, deconstruction, before there was deconstruction as an academic critical approach, he was a most unaccountable modern nomad in the space of
subversive ideas.
Georges Batailles Big Toe
Georges Bataille programmatically put his muddy Big Toe down against
the heady idealism of Western culture. His excursus on The Big Toe in
Documents 6 (November 1929)illustrated by Boiffards monumental shot
of this underrated body partis a paradigm of his own uniquely surrealist iconoclasm. The Big Toe, he writes, is the most human part of the
human body, as it differentiates man most from the anthropoid apes,
making it possible for him to move without clinging to branches, having himself become a tree, in other words raising himself straight up in



the air like a tree. . . . But whatever the role played in the erection by his
foot, man, who has a light head, in other words a head raised to the heavens and heavenly things, sees it as spit, on the pretext that he has this
foot in the mud.39
It is Batailles intention to reverse this vertical valuation (there is a
bias in favor of that which elevates itself, and human life is erroneously
seen as an elevation), by risking the head (in Batailles words the light
head, the head raised to the heavens). Batailles point is to debunk
traditional art (academic art) as idealist, sightless (objectless) subjectivity, and to review the abstract elevation of the head from the very base
(base as both basis and the low). Contemporary painting, exemplified by
Picassos work, for Bataille is devolution40the latest reenactment, or metamorphosis, of a series of mutilations of the human body, decapitations,
and sacrifices starting with tribal ritualsdepicted in the caves and labyrinths of prehistoric painters, amply discussed and glossily illustrated in
Documents. Batailles provocative valorization of the lowly (the ugly, the
gory, and the obscene) was a reverse form of idealism, Hegels aesthetics
turned upside down, from the ideal to the material, and, after all, a form
of aesthetics of the ugly.
Eugene Jolass magical language
Eugene Jolas, in his only, and even at that quite surprising, contribution
to Documents (a short homage to Picasso in 1930), will admit that the
geniuss work challenges the critics poor, little words. Contrary to
Einsteins language skepticism, he thus proposes the invention of a new
magical language.41 Among Massons paintings reproduced in Documents
2 (1929although most of them were from the year 1928) are twoLe
Chiffre Cinque, and Le Pige et lOiseauthat Jolas also reprints in
transition 15 (Feb. 1929). Earlier in this issue, Jolas (under his pseudonym Theo Rutra; Theo Rutra = God Root) devotes a prose poem to
Andr Masson, composed in a type of magical language:
The loorabalboli glides through the algroves suddenly turning upon
itself. There is a spiral spatter of silver. A thunderbelt lies in the
white. The rolls drum down the hidden malvines, where the
gullinghales flap finwings casually. The feathers of the salibri glint
in the marlite. Then the loorabalboli sings: O puppets of the eremites, the weedmaids fever love. Send Octobus to shores of clay;
thieve younglings out of sheaves of ice. And troutroots dance.
There is a blish. A wonderlope whirs through the floom.



Jolas here apparently attempts to translate Massons painted images into

onomatopoetic, gliding and sliding neologisms which produce an audible
and imaged/imagined effect of a mental sea-scape. This linguistic seascape is constituted by the fluid, or conceptually opened, unbounded,
and deterritorialized traces of marine plants (algroves and malvines,
metamorphosized from mangroves and vines) as well as fish and bird
life: gullinghales (from gulls plus whales), finwings, feathers of the
salibri (from sal = salt and colibri), or fish and plants (troutroots).
In contrast to Benns, Einsteins, and Batailles writings cited here,
Jolass poetic text establishes a floating position above, from which to
establish a viewpoint that brings to the eye the hidden in a moments
epiphany, a fish-like jump in a blish: There is a spiral spatter of silver. . . .
There is a blish. A panorama arises as if viewed through a glass bottom
boat that is equipped with sonar sounding, transmitting to the human
ear a singing voice that synaesthetically blends with the visual (in a metamorphosis of human emotions into plant life): . . . the weedmaids fever
love. . . . The audiovisual experience seems to retain a privileged center
in the (twice appearing) gliding and singing (seen and heard)
loorabalboli (a formation from the English lure, German ur-, Spanish
arbol, etc.). This multilingual (Joycian) word-montage, cabalistic formula,
mandala, or sorcerers incantationloorabalboliculminates in the final sentence as a composition of sound, vision and spiritual valuation: A
wonderlope whirs through the floom. The loorabalbolis turning upon
itself from the first line into the last line reconstitutes and represents
Massons painting as a wonderlope.
In sum, Jolass magical language goes to the head: Poetry is vertical for Jolas, and it has to be recited aloud; I suggest, performed, head
up, not stooped down as in a silent reading of a text without audience.
Jolass poesis is an idealistic, white gnosis,43 that makes language turn
upon itself, deconceptualizing the linguistic hierarchies of the late written word (Einsteins target) toward images. His poetry widens images toward sound-images, albeit charged with a storywords charged with
meanings, as Benn would say. After all, for the editor of Finnegans Wake
the word leads from the night-mind to a Hegelian world of the higher
synthesis,44 and the word is the foundation for the architecture of a
subjective-objective cosmos. 45
In a draft of an essay entitled Joyce and Language(1947), Jolas
thematizes the connection of a modernist vertical spirituality with the
primitive function of music-words. For Joyce these music words are
tied to etymological roots, with African and Asiatic prehistoric tribes.



They are based predominantly on a magic, incantatory language of sounds

which is recited in rituals.46 In this essay, Jolas traces the correspondence of sonorist, meaning verbal-musical compositions of North
American Indian chants, the negroid poetry of Cuba, African drums, of
ritual performances, with modernist and avant-garde literature and poetry: the lingua romana of Stefan George, of Expressionist verbal art
(August Stramm), Dadas sound -poems, Kurt Schwitterss, and ultimately
his very own, sonorist verses. Jolass autobiography speaks of Joyces influence as an added fillip, since he reviews his own neologistic work
as originating in the tri-lingual borderland of Alsace-Lorraine.47 In this
essay, however, Joyce is the mediator of the modern with the primitive,
and perceived as the mentor of the language poets. The poetry of Jolass
Alsatian friends from the early 1920s was either written in German,
French, or the Alsatian dialect, and his own was published in English, for
LArc (Strasbourg, 1924), but there is not a single multilingual text from
that period. Apparently it really was Joyce, with his etymological experiments, who gave us . . . extraordinary sound-patterns in a constant mythographic metamorphosis.48
In its last years, 19361938, the journal did introduce sections entitled The Eye, and The Ear, exploring, like Documents, the evolution and function of the senses in perception processes. Of course, the
senses of vision and hearing were subject to the vertical point of view,
obverse to Batailles rotten eye.49 In the extreme, the sense of seeing
was subjected to Jolass fascination with the pineal eye, the mystical,
visionary faculty of the third eye, lost but to be recovered by the Revolution of the Word.50 Jolas (Theo Rutra) himself was, throughout the
publication of transition, virtually obsessed with the revival of the word
as mystical logos, the word as archeo-logos, ur-name; yet, we should
not forget he was also obsessed with the word as universal Nomos.
The constellation of Benn, Jolas, Einstein, and Bataille, tells us that
Jolas was a conservative avant-gardist, to coin a contradiction in terms
that is nonetheless fitting to the interwar crisis years. It was his conservatism, not any fast-lane avant-gardism, that compelled transitions editor to search for arch and telos, to look for the earliest and latest for
publication in his journal. By the same token his vertical understanding of the avant-garde was better (meaning more humanist, more familiar to the Western tradition) than most of the writers and painters
understood themselves and their own work.



Coda: Against Hitlers Architecture

In the early years of the Second World War, Jolas was to go as far as
imagining an alliance, as it were, an idiosyncratic united front, with
the intellectuals who represented, since October 1936 in the form of the
Collge de Sociologie, the counterposition to his own vertical vision.
With the exception of two minor texts by Leiris, none of these had found
a voice in his polyphone journal; and even now there is no evidence of
any concrete relations.51 With Vertical: A Yearbook for Romantic-Mystic
Ascensions, published in 1941 in New York, Jolas intended what he calls
a metaphysical successor to transition. His project here was, essentially,
to fight Hitlers barbarism with modernist primitivism, Hitlers racist myth
with universal myths. In his own words, he sought to reconstitute the
myth of continuous ascent in mustering the creative forces of humanity,
including the astronomic-planetary myths of the primitives versus the
fraudulent romanticism of totalitarian imperialism.52 In Verticals section entitled The Quest and the Myth, his ideas of a mythical
verticalist political mission of the primitivist avant-garde in the age
of fascist barbarism are reinforced and broadly based on the universality
of the mythology of elevation, in other words, of the head: The
Babylonians, the Polynesians, the Aztecs, the Mayas, the Hindus, many
African tribes, as well as Indian tribes of North-America, organize their
world into vast patterns built horizontally one above the other until they
felt they had reached the heavenly apex.53 In these horizontal/vertical
terms (reminiscent of the expressionist Kandinskys pyramid of learning
in The Spiritual in Art, 1911), Jolas constructs a relation from the primitive to the modern culture cycles. In the vein of Vico, and in the wake of
Joyce he finds universal myths reincorporated in modern developments,
for example, Icaruss legendary wings in the contemporary airplane.
Taken to the extreme, Jolass unversalism goes as far as forcing familiarity on the unfamiliar, erasing political and mental differences where,
for the sake of an idealist cause, universalism may turn into eclecticism.
It is quite symptomatic for his drivenness to synthesis that these visions
precede the reproductions of Massons sketches of Jean Paul, Kleist, and
Dionysos (reprinted from Acphale, July 1937). They also precede a major
section of Vertical entitled The Sacred Ritual including Jolass translations of the Collge de Sociologies Manifesto for a Sacred Sociology,
Georges Batailles The Sacred Conspiracy, Roger Cailloiss Ambiguity
of the Sacred, and Georges Duthuits For a Sacred Art. Symptomatically, Jolass valorization of the sacred architecture of primitive peoples
(vertical structures such as temples, pyramids, etc.) is to extend to the



structures of the myth of the Labyrinth and Minotaur,54 the very structure of decomposition which Bataille, in Documents and later in Minotaure,
and in his anti-fascist journal Acphale, poses against architecture
(Hollier).55 Jolas must have blinded himself to the emphasis of the groups
Manifesto for a Sacred Sociology on the decomposing function of the
excessive, or the scandal for a ferocious individualism. Jolas must
have been blind, as he had earlier been oblivious to Benns embrace of a
violent revolt against the intellect in the late 1920s, to the argument
that indulges in the violent instants of mans intimate experience for
a transition from the will to knowledge to the will to power.56 The
Collge de Sociologies vision of a subversively heterogeneous will to
power was inspired by a will to knowledge below the structures of idealism. It thus seems to have been a project of defamiliarization with at
least a logical (thus meaning only a logical) chance to disrupt Hitlers
fraudulent romanticism of imperial totalitarianismalbeit, in the realm
of ideas, and in the space of the ideas of minuscule secret groups. The
rebirth of myth in such groups would inspire the primitive communal
drives in society at large. Such was to be the mission of Batailles Acphale,
a risky program,57 to say the least. Its so-called directors of conscience
indulged in visions of originality that would somehow distinguish themselves, as Duthuit writes, from Hitlers dictatorial counterfeit and
parody of communal cults.58
Nevertheless, the illumination and disruption of the rigid architectures of the modern nation-state societies from the point of view of
latent, yet repressed instincts, desires, dreams and collective myths manifested in primitive documentsin spite of the divergent approaches of
idealistic familiarization and, respectively, scandalous defamiliarization
was a goal that Jolass journals shared with Batailles. They mutually engaged in a subversive response to Western scientific/rationalist principles
through statements of a surrealist ethnography and aesthetic expressions of a mythical archeo-logy of modernity for renewed communal
experience, albeit on opposite poles of public relations and trust: Jolas on
a grand geopolitical, transatlantic linguistic scale, Bataille in the niche
of the idiosyncratic secret society. In spite of claims to the opposite,
Batailles circle, after all, did engage the moral issuealbeit, from the
vantage point of a violent turn against the Judeo-Christian culture of the
bad conscience (Nietzsche/Freud). It also engaged the aesthetic, if from
the vantage point of the aestheticized ugly and obscene. Hand in hand
with that vision goes a responsible, or in that sense conservative, concern for the comprehensive expression of life, against the prison house
of logic. Carl Einsteins commentary on Massons images as evidencing



the incompatibility of hallucinatory and objective structures, thus a

minute chance for freedom: a possibility to change the order of things,59
could be as modest as valid a statement for both journals.
A cultivated epistemological concern and care distinguished the
interwar avant-garde from the early avant-gardes outright violent attitudes against the state and its institutions. This is epitomized by the primitivist bruitism of Futurism and wartime Dada, which wanted to drum
literature into the ground (Hugo Ball about Richard Huelsenbeck), and
by postwar Berlin Dadas posture gun in hand (Huelsenbeck about himself). Against Adolf Hitlers attack on Dada in his Mein Kampf, carried
out in an expenditure of millions of free copies to the masses, Duthuit
claims the Dadaist movement as a forerunner of the notion of liberty. For
Duthuit, Dada guaranteed liberty through scandal and the free expenditure of artistic gift, that evolved (sicafter all, not devolved) into
a sort of philosophy60 from surrealism to the lectures of the Collge de
Sociologie. And Jolas likewise privileges for transition the archeo-logies
of Balls and Arps playfully primitivist sound-poems with which his own
best poems have much in commonexcept that much of his writing is
charged with a heavy load of philosophical and mythological claims, typical for the crisis years of the late twenties and early thirties.
Northwestern University

1. See Klaus H. Kiefer, Die Ethnologisierung des kunstkritischen DiskursesCarl
Einsteins Beitrag zu Documents, Elan Vital oder Das Auge des Eros, exhibition catalogue
Haus der Kunst Mnchen, 1994, 90-103. Kiefer goes as far as identifying documents as
eminently Einsteins idea, citing from correspondence, beginning since the middle of
August 1928, in which Einstein outlines the contents of the first ten numbers of meine
Zeitschrift (my journal). Of these, however, only a few titles (mostly those that will
turn out to be his and Batailles) find their way into actual publication. In spite of
Batailles growing preponderance in the development of the journal, Einstein clearly
appears to have been the liaison for the many contributions by German ethnographers.
Some features of the journals critique of ideology, for instance the Dictionnaire column, had obviously been prepared by Einstein elsewhere; a glossary is also a prominent feature of transition. In fact, Documents ethnological turn against the idolization
of aesthetic autonomy is part and parcel of Einsteins longstanding thought. For more
details on the formation of and tensions within Documents, with Einstein relatively
more interested in art criticism than in a shocking critique of ideology, see Klaus H.
Kiefer, Diskurswandel im Werk Carl Einsteins. Ein Beitrag zur Theorie und Geschichte der
europischen Avantgarde (Tbingen: Niemeyer, 1994) 38597. Dawn Ades, Dada and
Surrealism Reviewed, catalogue: Hayward Gallery, London (January 11 March 27, 1978);
Liliane Meffre, Carl Einstein nella redazione di Documents. Storia dellarte ed



etnologia, in Dal museo al terrano. Letnologia francese ed italiana degli anni trenta, ed.
Centro culturale francese (Milano, 1987) 18087.
2. Carl Einsteins contributions to transition are: Bebuquin, translated from the
German by Eugene Jolas, 1617 (June 1929): 298301; Design of a Landscape (For
Erna Reber), translated from the German by Eugene Jolas, 1920 (June 1930): 212
17; Poetry is Vertical, 21 (March 1932): 14849; Obituary: 18321932, translated
by Eugene Jolas, 21 (March 1932): 20714. A valuable tool for identifying contributors
and contributions to transition is transition: an Author Index, ed. by Charles L. P. Silet
(Troy, New York: Whitston Publishing, 1980). For a basic discussion of Einsteins contribution to transition, see Dougald McMillans pioneering study transition: The History
of a Literary Era 19271938 (New York: George Braziller, 1976) 5355; for Jolass own
appreciation of Einstein, see Eugene Jolas, Man from Babel, ed. Andreas Kramer and
Rainer Rumold (New Haven: Yale UP, 1998) 95, 12324, 128, 143, 208, 297, 307.
3. I agree with Denis Hollier,The use value of the impossible, in Bataille: Writing
the Sacred, ed. Carolyn Bailey Gill (London: Routledge, 1995) when he writes: Bataille
privileges the monstrous because he considers it aesthetically ugly. His definition of
the freakish is no longer statistical, but aesthetic. Hollier even speaks of the aesthetic
ideology of Documents, citing in support Carl Einsteins focus (at the instance of Picasso)
on the gap opened by the aesthetic discourse between the normal and the imaginative experience (145). But Einsteins critical writings are far from instantiating what
he calls the aesthetic of disparity, which is above all an anti-aesthetic of the
untransposable (a resistance to aesthetic reproduction)(146). My discussion of Einsteins
essay on Andr Masson below rather shows that the critic is attempting, on the contrary, to develop not immediacy itself (used on the spot) but an aesthetics of the immediacy of the image as, after all, a sign (as a psychologically direct sign).
4. Rotten Sun, Visions of Excess, ed. with an introduction by Allan Stoekl (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1985) 58. See also Soleil Pourri, Documents, 3 (1930):
5. For a discussion of the place of ethnography in Documents see Denis Hollier, The
use value of the impossible, 13349. James Cliffords term surrealist ethnography, I
agree with Hollier, cannot be applied to Documents as a whole where professional German and French ethnographers pursue the understanding of prehistorical artifacts in
straightforward historical and sociological terms. Contributions like Einsteins essay on
Masson (discussed below) in comparison with his review A propos de lexposition de
la Galerie Pigalle, Documents 2 (1930): 10410, reveal the double strategy involved.
In the latter review Einstein finds an aesthetic explication of African art insufficient,
while deriving from it an understanding of its presentation of magical and collective
signs applicable to the corresponding archaism in modern art. This example reveals
an intersection between a surrealist critique of ideology and scientific ethnography
not only at the point of their common (potentially, but not necessarily anti-aesthetic)
focus on the works use value, prioritized by Hollier. It reveals Einsteins practice of
incorporating ethnographic concepts (e.g. totemism) into what, after all, amounts to
art criticism on Masson that not only, for example, paraphrases Bretons revaluation of
the imagination but also articulates similarly liberating, aesthetic expectations from
the work of Masson. Comparable observations can be made for many essays by Leiris
and Bataille, even though they are more shock-oriented. Hence I cannot agree with
Holliers distinction between the two driving forces behind Documents, the ethnographers and the anti-aesthetes(145). On the subject of primitivism and Documents, see
also Rosalind Krauss, No More Play, The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other
Modernist Myths (Cambridge, MA: MIT P, 1985) 56f.,6468. On the issue of ethnographic surrealism see also Hal Foster, The Artist as Ethnographer, The Return of the
Real: The Avant-garde at the End of the Century (Cambridge, MA: MIT P, 1996) 180ff.



6. From the Heart of the Absolute, translated by Jolas, transition 1617 (June 1929):
27782, and much later, the poem Oraison Funbre dun Chasseur, transition 27 (AprilMay 1938): 36973.
7. William Rubin, Introduction, Primitivism in 20th Century Art. Affinity of the
Tribal and the Modern, ed. William Rubin, (New York: The Museum of Modern Art,
1984) 1:11. If the term elective affinity initially may imply a conscious choice, in the
course of the essay that connotation is dropped in favor of a natural affinity (e.g., 73).
8. James Clifford, Histories of the Tribal and the Modern, in The Predicament of
Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art (Cambridge, MA: Harvard
UP, 1988) argues against Rubins notion of an affinity of the primitive and the modern
creative mind from the point of view of Leiriss assessment of a common differentness
in relation to representational artistic modes that dominated in the West from the
Renaissance to the late nineteenth century(192). Such critical understanding serves
better than the ahistorical, culture-blind employment of a kinship term like affinity.
9. See Kirk Varnedoe, Abstract Expressionism in Primitivism in 20th Century Art:
Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern, 2:618. See also John Graham, System and Dialectics
of Art (New York: Delphic Studios, 1937). transition 14 (Fall 1928) reprinted two of
John Grahams works (Painting, opposite 170f.). Robert Carleton Hobbs, Early Abstract Expressionism: A Concern for the Unknown Within, in R. C. Hobbs and Gail
Levin, Abstract Expressionism: The Formative Years (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1971) is also
10. See Michel Foucault, The Order of Things. An Archeology of the Human Sciences
(New York: Vintage Books, 1971) 37984.
11. SeeArt and Aesthetics, Michel Leiris and Jaqueline Delange, African Art, trans.
Michell Ross (London: Thames and Hudson, 1968) 3555.
12. See Denis Hollier, The use value of the impossible, 135. Hollier here, for example, registers the coinciding of Leiriss appreciation of a collection of anthropological photographs with Einsteins point of view taken at an exhibition of African and
Oceanic art: Until now,(Leiris) writes,there was no book which presented the general public with a selection of purely ethnographic documents rather than just a series
of works of art. And Hollier quotes Carl Einstein: this art must be treated historically, and no longer considered just from the point of view of taste or aesthetics.
Hollier here, too, prefers to focus on one dimension of the conflict-ridden journal.
13. See Andreas Kramer and Rainer Rumold, Introduction to Eugene Jolas, Man
from Babel (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1998) xix xx.
14. See Klaus H. Kiefer, Die Ethnologisierung des kunstkritischen Diskurses- Carl
Einsteins Beitrag zu Documents, 92.
15. As James Clifford has demonstrated in an important essay on Ethnographic Surrealism, Predicament of Culture. Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art, 117
151, the still quite unexplored and open relationship between surrealist avant-garde
art and ethnography can best be studied by way of Documents.
16. Liliane Meffre, Einstein (Carl) 18851940, Encyclopaedia universalis (Paris 1989)
17. Jolas,The Primal Personality in transition 22 (February 1933): 81.
18. See Kramer/Rumold, Introduction, Man from Babel, xxvif.
19. Gottfried Benn, The Structure of the Personality (Outline of the Geology of the
I), transition 21 (March 1932): 20304.
20. Jolas,The Primal Personality (80, 82). For a critical account of Jolass relations
to Benn, see Rainer Rumold, Gottfried Benn und der Expressionismus. Provokation des
Lesersabsolute Dichtung (Knigstein, Ts.: Scriptor/Athenaeum, 1982) 16374.



21. Carl Einstein,Andr Masson: tude ethnologique, Documents 2 (1929): 93. Unless indicated otherwise, all translations from the French (and German) in this article
are mine.
22. Documents 2:100.
23. Documents 2:100.
24. Documents 2:102; 2:100. For the German version see Carl Einstein, Werke, ed.
Marion Schmid & Liliane Meffre (Wien/Berlin: Medusa Verlag, 1985) 3:2024.
25. See David Macey, Lacan in Contexts (London: Verso, 1988) 4474.
26. Jacques Lacan, The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I as Revealed in Psychoanalytical Experience, in Critical Theory since 1965, ed. Hazard Adams
& Leroy Searle (UP of Florida, 1986) 735.
27. See Rainer Rumold, Gottfried Benn (6276; 13951). Regarding the consequences
of Einsteins language crisis in literary and political terms, see Rumold, Carl Einstein
and Buenavenura Durruti: The Poesy and Grammar of Anarchism in German and International Perspectives on the Spanish Civil War: The Aesthetics of Partisanship, ed. Luis
Costa, et al (Columbia: Camden House, 1992) 6477.
28. Documents 2:100. My emphasis.
29. Dictionnaire critique, ROSSIGNOL, Documents 2 (1929): 11718.
30. Since his Les fonctions mentales dans les socits infrieures (1910), Lvy-Bruhl had
employed the term participation mystique in order to elucidate the primitive minds
capacity to see itself embodied, virtually incorporated in the animate and inanimate
world. The ethnologists work was to influence a whole generation of French and German avant-garde writers; it legitimized, on the level of scientific thought, their interest
in the alternative prelogical experience in images before re-presentation. Au fond, their
writings constituted the highly paradox experiment to escape in language the conceptual and temporal confinement inherent in language.
31. See Ellie Ragland-Sullivan, Jacques Lacan and the Philosophy of Psychoanalysis (London: Croom Helm, 1986) 20f., 102.
32. Documents, 2:102.
33. Documents, 2:102.
34. Einsteins psychologically direct sign obviously disrupts and subverts the temporality of symbolic language. In other words, Einstein here is struggling with a definition of what, with Kristeva (in the wake of Lacan), will be referred to as the semiotic,
a pre-logical language of the unconscious, from which the discourses of avant-garde
and feminine writing derive their energies subversive of the symbolic order. For basic
reference, see Toril Moi, Sexual/Textual Politics (London: Routledge, 1988) 16162; 164
66). For a critique of Lacans analysis of elemental corporeal images attaching themselves in hallucinatory representational chainsclearly these are the focus of
Einsteins essayas part of a process that reaches from an unsymbolized Imaginary to
the establishment of the Symbolic order, see Ellie Ragland-Sullivan, Counting from
0 to 6: Lacan, Suture, and the Imaginary Order, Criticism and Lacan: Essays and Dialogue on Language, Structure, and the Unconscious, ed. Patrick Colm Hogan and Lalita
Pandit (Athens, GA: U of Georgia P, 1990) 40, 43.
35. Documents 2:100.
36. Prestige dAndr Masson, Minotaure 1213 (May 1939): 13 (with cover painting of the Minotaure by Masson). Andr Breton, The magical eloquence of Andr
Masson(1939) in Breton, Surrealism and Painting trans. Simon Watson Taylor (London: McDonald, 1972) 154. See also: L Surralism et la Peinture (Paris: Edition
Gallimard, 1965).
37. Georges Bataille, Andr Masson, Labyrinthe 19 (May, 1941): 8.
38. See Denis Hollier, ed. The College of Sociology (193739) (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1988) 389.



39. See The Big Toe, Georges Bataille: Visions of Excess. Selected Writings, 1927
1939, ed. Allan Stoekl (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1985) 20.
40. Bataille, Rotten Sun, Visions of Excess 58. and Soleil Pourri, Documents 3:174.
41. Documents 3:175.
42. Jolas, Andr Masson, transition 15:101.
43. Jolass response to Benn, his essay on The Primal Personality concluded in a
postscriptum invoking the ecstatic and hymnic language of gnosis, (transition 22 [February 1933]: 83).
44. Jolas, The Revolution of Language and James Joyce, transition 11 (February 1928):
45. Jolas, Homage to James Joyce, transition 21 (March 1932): 250.
46. Jolas, Joyce and Language, Yale University: The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscripts Library, Gen Mss 108, Box 14/270, 7.
47. Man from Babel, 108.
48. Joyce and Language, 4.
49. For a full discussion of the motif and its significance, see Martin Jay, The Disenchantment of the Eye: Bataille and the Surrealists, Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of
Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought (Berkeley: U of California P, 1993) 21162.
50. Cf., Eugene Jolas, The Third Eye: Ascensions to the Tremendum, transition 26
(1937): 15458 The motif is ubiquitous in Jolass writings since 1927, but contrast it
with Georges Battaille, The Eye Documents 4 (September 1929): 216; and his The
Pineal Eye, written around 1930, published much later in LEphmere 3, 1967. One of
the articles, Seeing and Representation by James Johnson Sweeney (a curator for
MOMA), with whom Einstein was connected through the shared interest in African
art, even argued from the level-headed position closer to Einsteins that seeing, too, is
a semiotic process. James Johnson Sweeney, Seeing and Representation transition 24
(June 1936): 6266.
51. It was a decade later when Maria Jolas would translate Georges Batailles Potlatch: The Economic Role of the Gift for Editiones de Minuit, (Paris: Unesco Translations, 1949) in close contact with the author.
52. Eugene Jolas, ed., Vertical: A Yearbook for Romantic-Mystic Ascensions (New York:
Gotham Bookmart P, 1941) 13f.
53. Vertical, 98f.
54. Vertical, 100.
55. See Denis Hollier, Against Architecture. The Writings of Georges Bataille (Cambridge, MA: MIT P, 1989), with chapters on The Hegelian Edifice or The Labyrinth, the Pyramid, and the Labyrinth.
56. Vertical, 114.
57. See, for example, Allan Stoekl, Introduction (xviiif). See also Jrgen Habermas,
Between Eroticism and General Economics: Bataille, in The Philosophical Discourse of
Modernity (Cambridge, MA: MIT P, 1987) 221.
58. See Georges Duthuit, For a Sacred Art, Vertical 15152.
59. Documents 2:98.
60. For the Sacred in Art, 132.