The Pornographic Imagination
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"Human sexuality is, quite apart from Christian repressions, a highly questionable phenomenon, and belongs, at least potentially, among the extreme rather than the ordinary experiences of humanity. Tamed as it may be, sexuality remains one of the demonic forces in human consciousness - pushing us at intervals close to taboo and dangerous desires, which range from the impulse to commit sudden arbitrary violence upon another person to the voluptuous yearning for the extinction of one's consciousness, for death itself."
"Not only do Pierre Louys' Trois filles de leur mère, George Bataille's Histoire de l'Oeil and Madame Edwarda, the pseudonymous Story of O and The Image belong to literature, but it can be made clear why these books, all five of them, occupy a much higher rank as literature than Candy or Oscar Wilde's Teleny or the Earl of Rochester's Sodom or Appolinaire's The Debauched Hospodar or Cleland's Fanny Hill."
Her 'case' is based on these five novels:
- Trois filles de leur mère (1926) - Pierre Louÿs
- Histoire de l'oeil (1928) - Georges Bataille
- Madame Edwarda (1937) - Georges Bataille
- L'Histoire d'O (1954) - Pauline Réage
- L'Image (1956) - Catherine Robbe-Grillet
Although the term paraliterature had not been coined at the time of its writing (we have to wait 17 years for Fredric Jameson to do that), the connection between science fiction and erotic fiction makes this essay one of the first defenses of the nobrow or paraliterary category.
Bataille understood more clearly than any other writer
- One reason that Histoire de l'oeil and Madame Edwarda make such a strong and unsettling impression is that Bataille understood more clearly than any other writer I know of that what pornography is really about, ultimately, isn't sex but death. I am not suggesting that every pornographic work speaks, either overtly or covertly, of death. Only works dealing with that specific and sharpest inflection of the themes of lust, "the obscene," do. It's toward the gratifications of death, succeeding and surpassing those of eros, that every truly obscene quest tends. -- p. 60, Picador USA