Ecstatic and Intolerable: The Provocations of Friendship

Jeremy Biles

in Ecce Monstrum

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print December 2007 | ISBN: 9780823227785
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823235193 | DOI:
Ecstatic and Intolerable: The             Provocations of Friendship

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In poor health, Georges Bataille, with the assistance of his friend J. M. Lo Duca, wrote the text that would accompany the images he had collected and arranged with scrupulous care during the previous two years. Among the dozens of images comprised in this book are four photos of a man undergoing the punitive process known as the lingchi, translated as “death by a thousand cuts” or the “hundred pieces”. This mode of torture and execution entails the dismemberment and evisceration of its victim. It is worth inquiring into the question mark that punctuates Bataille's description of the victim in this photo as “ecstatic” and “intolerable”. Despite the inability to decide upon the victim's inner state—which is, of course, unknowable—the horror of the photo gives rise to an ecstatic experience, for it is in the “violence of the image” that Bataille discerns “an infinite capacity for reversal” between antinomies, a revelation of the “fundamental connection” between “divine ecstasy and its opposite, extreme horror”.

Keywords: Lo Duca; divine ecstasy; reversal; violence; lingchi; extreme horror; torture

Chapter.  10988 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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