Publication Details

James, K. (2009). Breton, Bataille and Lacan’s Notion of “Transgressive” Sublimation. E-Pisteme, 2 (1), 53-66.

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Surrealism has sometimes been characterised as a movement in flight from reality, attempting to evade the base and the material by immersing itself in oneiric realities and the "world-rubble of the unconscious" (Adorno). Indeed, Surrealism is frequently equated with an idealising "sublimatory" tendency within modernist art which contrasts with the deconstructive and "desublimatory" stance of George Bataille, a dissident surrealist known for his transgressive writings on eroticism. Even in their conceptualisation of love, the surrealists are frequently considered to be too idealising – and all the more so in the case of their leading spokesman, André Breton. In this paper I will attempt to present an alternative view of Surrealism which shows that its explorations of love do have a transgressive basis. Specifically I will use Lacan's theory on sublimation (which posits moral law as a regulator of desire) to show how regulation and interdiction (as promoted by restrictive social mores and religious repression) exacerbate desire. I will argue that it is precisely such interdiction that both Breton and Bataille revolt against in their writings and which inform their views of eroticism and love.