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xiv u INTRODUCTION

INTRODUCTION u xv

with the theoretical implications of allegory, Bataille precisely recognizes that the fall of the elevated and noble threatens the coherent theory of allegory itself. This is not to imply that allegory is simply done away with in Batailleany more than is the dialecticbut rather, that what Bataille works out is a kind of headless allegory, in which the process of signification and reference associated with allegory continues, but leads to the terminal subversion of the pseudostable references that had made allegory and its hierarchies seem possible. The fall of one system is not stabilized, is not replaced with the elevation of another; the fall in Bataille's allegory is a kind of incessant or repetitious process. Thus filth does not "replace" God; there is no new system of values, no new hierarchy. In the Documents articles, Bataille's attention wanders through a disseminated field, a labyrinth, of possibilities; flowers, excrement, toes, Gnosticism, freaks, mouth, sun, severed fingers. Even if it may seem that one term is momentarily privileged (sun/anus), that term itself only signifies the failure of all the other terms to stand clearly in relation to a "higher" signified." Indeed one could argue that for this reason, Bataille's "terminology" itself (and his "theory" as well) is fundamentally unstable, not only in these early writings, but in everything he wrote. The very term heterogeneous, positively valued in the early writings, later (in the 1940's) comes to indicate what seems to be the exact opposite." The same change takes place in the word sovereignty, indeed even in the figure of Nietzsche, who is taken to task (for being a reactionary) in "The `Old Mole' and the Prefix Sur in the Words Surhomme [Superman] and Surrealist," but who is, in the later 1930's, seen as a major precursor and, free of all political taint, the victim of Fascist misrepresentation. Among other things, then, Bataille's project must be seen as a kind of allegory of the fall of allegory itself. This fall of allegory is in fact consonant with the fall of the copula in Bataille, and with the ramifications of that fall. (We might speak of the allegory of the fall of the copula.) As we learn in "The Solar Anus," But the copula of terms is no less irritating than the copulation of bodies. And when I scream I AM THE SUN an integral erection results, because the verb to be is the vehicle of amorous frenzy. Everyone is aware that life is parodic and that it lacks an interpretation. Thus lead is the parody of gold. Air is the parody of water. The copula/copulation dyad is unstable; it is both a function of language and of bodies; because God is dead, a definitive interpretation guaranteed by a stable copulaand mandating its parody, productive copulationis sacrificed. The unstable copula leads to obscene, parodic, burlesque, and ever-inverted significations; unstable copulation leads to perverse and morbid sexuality. And because

of the parodic status of each side of the copula/copulation dyad (in relation to the other), we cannot say that one "causes" the other (that is, we cannot say that the destabilization of signification generates or subsumes the destabilization of sexuality, or vice versa): along with stable signification, a straightforward ("scientific") model of causation is parodied, for example, when "The Solar Anus" presents the copulation of lovers "causing" the earth to turn, their movement a burlesque of the horizontal motion of the locomotive's piston's "causing" the rotation of its wheels. This is not to say, then, that Bataille wafts off into a purely linguistic or grammatological conundrum. On the contrary, starting with "The 'Old Mole' " (which probably dates from 1929 or 1930), Bataille sees his critique of the elevatedthe ideal, the surrealas inseparable from a political critique of fascism. "The 'Old Mole' " (written for the avant-garde review Bifur and unpublished in Bataille's lifetime) is an attempt to see irreducibly "base" matter in the context of Marxist revolution. Base materialism, unlike pragmatic or functionalist theories of materialism, does not pass beyond matter in the construction of a "scientific" conceptual edifice. (A materialism that generates abstract "laws" is in complicity with idealism: see the Documents article "Materialism.") Instead, base materialism posits a matter that cannot be reduced to systems of scientific or political mastery. Marx's "old mole" burrows under and subverts the idealism that founds and legitimates systems as diverse as authoritarian imperialism (fascism), utopian socialism, the Nietzschean superman, and "spiritual" surrealism. The imperial eagle that signifies these entities flies over (sur), but its easy mastery will be definitively disrupted when the repugnant revolutionaries tear it out of the sky. In Bataille's view, the bourgeois individualslike Nietzsche or Bretonwho foster a desire to revolt by soaring "above" are destined for a fall, and in a way want to fall: thus the "Icarian complex," an "unconscious" and pathological desire to fall. Icarian revolt (as opposed to base subversion) is the only pathology Bataille will condemn; it is the pathological refusal to embrace stinking decompositionan embrace that, from the point of view of any dialectic of the cure, must itself be pathological.

II
But what of the Marxist dialectic in all this? Although Hegel is condemned in "The 'Old Mole,' " a dialectical movement was clearly already implicit in the "Pineal Eye" writings. How can definitively disruptive low matter be joined to a progressive Marxist dialectic (without which there is only utopian idealism), at the same time avoiding a fall into an "abstract and mechanical" Hegelian movement? This is a major problem. The dialectic, as we know from Alexandre Kojeve's reading of Hegel, sets as its major task the recuperation of negativity." Thus