Department or Program



This thesis explores the writings of Georges Bataille, a French writer living and publishing on the margins of twentieth-century France’s formative intellectual-cultural movements, Surrealism and Existentialism. Through reading various texts written largely between 1936-45, I will explore “death,” “war,” and “community” as terms constituting Bataille’s vision of an “acéphalic universe,” a world where “God is Dead.” Favoring an anti-theoretical attitude towards Bataille’s written body, my thesis grapples with Bataille’s texts as sites of experience. They not only trace the expression and movement of Bataille’s fraught inner life, but they also demand readers to confront the presuppositions—literary, philosophical, and ideological—predisposing them to read Bataille as a writer-thinker of a certain style, tradition, or discipline. My approach treats Bataille as a human being who lived and worked within his historical and biographical context. I emphasize the historical and personal situations shaping Bataille’s writings in Surrealist-adjacent periodicals, Atheological Summa, and meditative poetry, to make not an accurate reconstruction of Bataille’s lifework, but rather to offer the study of “lifework” as a problematic for interpreting the twentieth century European avantgarde.

Level of Access

Open Access

First Advisor

Freedman, Sanford

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf. file, with images included.

Open Access

Available to all.