Sunday, February 01, 2009


When Bataille analyzes the activities of society, he divides it into two parts: the productive part, and then ‘the second part, represented by so-called unproductive expenditures: luxury, mourning, war, cults, the construction of sumptuary monuments, games, spectacles, arts, perverse sexual activity [...] all these represent the activties which, at least in primitive circumstances, have no end beyond themselves.

This is what I mean when I say that I don't believe poetry should be "productive."

Also, I agree with Robert Frost that poetry is what is *lost* in translation. Which is why I keep translating and translating, losing and losing.


Blogger AG said...

I agree with you on this, Johannes.

10:43 AM  
Blogger Archambeau said...

I want to agree with Bataille, but I think a lot of the stuff he sees as existing beyond utility has a kind of utility to it, in a peacock's tail kind of way. You know: the tail seems excessive and useless, but has a status and mate attraction function. Like luxury, say.

Then again, there are the truly excessive things.

I suppose Bataille's ideas are a kind of mutation to the old 19th century aestheticism of art for art's sake, with its snubbing of the utility-minded bourgeoisie. From Baudelaire to Mallarme to Bataille is probably not too squiggly a line.

What are sumptuary monuments, by the way? I feel like I should have one in the back yard.


7:02 PM  
Blogger K. Lorraine Graham said...

Johannes, I've been mulling this post for a bit, and thinking about Bataille again--in part due to recent blog conversations with you, here, and in part because I have a student with the last name Bataille.

I use the word "productive" quite a bit when I talk about poetry, but I always cringe a bit. But my sense of the word productive has more to do with, I think, the dynamic tension implied by Kristeva's sense of an ethical text. I suppose, very generally, that in that Kristeva contex it's kind of a leftover Marxist term to describe what happens when two things that aren't the same interact.

Bataille's notion of the productive parts of society and the unproductive expenditures is helpful--but different, I see, from the process Kristeva mentions.

I don't have a fully-made point about this. I feel like I'd like to read Walter Benjamin and Debord again.

I suppose I'm just saying hello.

Also, I think it's quite good that you are moderating comments. I started moderating them on my blog ages ago (which doesn't get much traffic) because I had a kind of stalker guy with a mud fetish. It was weird and annoying.

Have fun at AWP!

7:29 PM  

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