Religion, Eroticism and Being's Continuity: A Reading of Kevin Hart in the Light of Bataille's Theory

By Zhang, Shaoyang | Antipodes, June 2012 | Go to article overview

Religion, Eroticism and Being's Continuity: A Reading of Kevin Hart in the Light of Bataille's Theory


Zhang, Shaoyang, Antipodes


IT IS WELL KNOWN THAT AUSTRALIAN POET KEVIN HART IS interested in the relationship of theology and deconstruction, and that he is sympathetic to theorists such as Emmanuel Lévinas, Maurice Blanchot and Jacques Derrida, as well as to the dual tradition of theology (positive and negative). However, it seems to have gone unnoticed that Hart's poetry is also close to the thinking of Georges Bataille. To testify to this point, this essay explores how Hart's writing is resonant with Bataille's theory on religion and eroticism, and demonstrates, in the meantime, the ways of obtaining intimacy with the deity, or continuity of being, by reading two of his major poems, "The Hall" (Hart, Fíame Tree 192-4) and "Madonna" (195-200), with some references to Bataille's works, including The ImpossihL·, Story of the Eye, and L'ABBE C.

The "essence" of "religion [. . .] is the search for lost intimacy" (Bataille, Theory of Religion 57) or the continuity of being (St. John, The Collect Works 607). The central Christian model was also adapted and assimilated by Bataille into his theory. According to him, there are two modes of transition relating to beings' continuity and discontinuity: one is "from continuous to discontinuous," whereas the other is "from discontinuous to continuous" (Bataille, Eroticism 15). The Christian God, on the one hand, is "a discontinuous being" (Hart, The Dark Gaze 42), for He had a physical body and became "discontinuous" when He descended to this secular world from Heaven. On the other hand, "God is a composite being possessed of the continuity" (Bataille, Eroticism 22), for He is a self-dependent being. Jesus Christ exemplifies the two modes: He descended from Heaven and was incarnated as a human being or discontinuous being and ascended to Heaven and returned to the "continuous being" after being crucified.

"The killing" or crucifixion of Jesus, no doubt, "injures the being of God" (Bataille, The Bataille Reader 93), but the death of the God-man is the key step in recovering continuity of being, which is seen from two sides. On the one hand, Jesus Christ became united with His Father, and on the other, mortal beings' desire and longing to have union with Him can be aroused and invigorated by the absence and transcendence of God. It is said that the death of God and the "fall" committed by humanity are necessary for fallen beings to have communication with God and recover the lost intimacy: "If human beings had kept their own integrity and hadn't sinned, God on one hand and human beings on the other would have persevered in their respective isolation," and the communication between God and humanity would have become impossible, for the divine "love" that is "guaranteed by crime" (93). Thus Jesus Christ, from kenosis to transcendence, not only sets an example for mortal beings or discontinuous beings to follow, but also creates a basic condition of necessity for humanity to have communications with the deity and to achieve the totality.

That said, nevertheless, it is not necessary for mortal or "discontinuous" beings to perish physically to obtain the "lost continuity" that "we yearn for" (Bataille, Eroticism 15), for there remains an alternative way for humanity to fulfill the realization of an identity with the totality- one can search the deity by having a desire for obtaining it. The humanity of an "organism" "seek(s) elements around it (or outside it) which are immanent to it and with which it must establish (relatively stabilize) relations of immanence" (Bataille, Theory of Religion 19), for "the flow (the immanence)" is "from outside to inside, from inside to outside, which is organic life, only lasts under certain conditions" (20) and it may sometimes be "in a sudden movement of transcendence, where tangible matter is surpassed. [. . .] In this way the intelligible world has the appearance of the divine" (73). This movement of transcendence and union reminds us of the functions of the Church, "bread" and "raisin wine" (Holy Bible, Matthew 26:26-28; Markl4:22-24). …

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