‘Incorporation denotes a fantasy, introjection a process.’ [Abraham & Torok. 1994, 125]
The fantasy that is Hannibal Lecter doubles back on itself. As a fantasy character he embodies the fantasy of incorporation and literally enacts it through cannibalism. This is metaphor deftly turned on its head (through metaphor made literal in action). In the real world, Armin Meiwes who was recently imprisoned for eating the body of another man (Bernd Brandes), presents us with a non-fictional example of cannibalism that represents only itself.1 Although many media reports described him as a real life Lecter, Armin Meiwes is a very different sort of cannibal. The character of Lecter is a metaphorical representation of the fantasy of incorporation – a fantasy of a fantasy depicted through literal action – and as such the idea of incorporation is reinforced or doubled.2 Through ingestion of human flesh, guiltlessly dispatched, the metaphor is loaded – it posits the idea that not only are we more or less the same, all capable of extreme and self serving acts of cruelty, but also that this cruelty is intrinsic to human nature. As an extreme fictional embodiment of incorporation, it also ensures a distinction between artifice and literal enactment. Cannibalistic fantasy symbolically enacts or performs non-relationality whereas Miewes literally ate his own fantasy. The act of cannibalism was the relationship between Miewes and Brandt.
Real acts of cannibalism take different forms. There are three primary forms of cannibalism – spiritual/ritualistic, survival and criminal. Spiritual cannibalism takes two forms: exo-cannibalism (the culture of eating members of another group or tribe, associated with power and aggression) and endo-cannibalism (the consumption of members of one’s own group, tribe or family, usually post-mortem and occasionally referred to as compassionate). Survival cannibalism is possibly the only accepted form of cannibalism, in which a person eats another in order to survive. However consumption of human flesh remains socially unacceptable even if justified – many countries legislate against cannibalism and in those that do not, participants may find themselves charged with another related crime such as necrophilia or murder. Criminal cannibalism itself has four main forms although they often overlap or combine. They are sexual, aggression, ritual and epicurean. 3
Understood mainly as a psychosexual disorder, sexual cannibalism is the sexualisation of another’s flesh. Sexual gratification is sought in the consumption of flesh but usually there is a combination of factors at play. Associated with necrophilia, murder and with sadism, sexual cannibalism often includes all four forms. Ed Gein (a notorious American serial killer) had sex with corpses, he peeled his victims skins away and wore them (he was the prototype for Buffalo Bill in the Lecter stories). He cannibalised some but not all of his victims. Another American serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer’s sexual cannibalism was aggressive and more ritualistic in nature. He also claimed to have also achieved sexual gratification from eating the flesh of his victims. Armin Miewes seems to fall completely within the sexual cannibal category – he was sexually aroused by the fantasy of eating another person’s flesh although the actual act was not to his liking. He only achieved sexual gratification through reliving the event via video playback and in the consumption of (parts of) Brandes’ body. Perhaps in watching the video he was able to restore (to a degree and only for a moment) the fantasy and its erotic charge. The ritualistic element of his action was (sexually) sadistic although overt aggression seems to have played little part (Brandes consented to the whole scenario, it would seem). Although Miewes is/was a surprisingly non-aggressive cannibal, many acts of cannibalism (if not all) have to some extent an element of aggression to them. The desire to control or to have ultimate power over another person, motivated by fear or hostility, has its ultimate expression in the murder and consumption of another human being.4
Ritualistic cannibalism, in its modern manifestation is most often associated with satanic or cult groups. Usually the practice is founded on the belief that by consuming a person one absorbs their energy or power and in this is the echo of a tribal cannibalism. Jeffrey Dahmer claimed that his victims became part of him spiritually through his consumption of their flesh and he constructed altars out of their body parts. Epicurean cannibalism, in its pure form, is perhaps the least usual form of cannibalism. The term refers to the consumption of human flesh on nutritional or taste values. Often it is as a result of other forms of cannibalism that the taste for human flesh is uncovered and most high profile epicurean cannibals are motivated initially by sexual, sadistic or ritualistic desires. All of which makes Hannibal Lecter a most unusual cannibal and quite different to Miewes; Miewes’ motivation was sexual and sadistic whereas Lecter’s cannibalism is driven by taste. Lecter is an aggressive, epicurean cannibal with no real reason/excuse for what he does, other than an abiding distaste for other people and an abiding taste for their flesh. Miewes, as sexual cannibal is unusual in his lack of aggression and is quite unlike the fictional Lecter. There are no real Lecters out there (so far was we can tell) – he is a mythic but modern monster, a metaphorical mix of fact and fiction. Yet he represents for us some of our incorporative instincts and his actions are based on very real things that human beings do to each other.
In fantasy, incorporation can be taken to its extremes (shaped into the fictional character of Lecter for example) without necessarily harming the subject that shapes it. However, incorporation is not the same thing as cannibalism – it denotes a fantasy, essentially a narcissistic one, whereas cannibalism is a real and deadly action performed by a real person in the real world. The character of Hannibal Lecter is not defined through actual cannibalism but what it represents through fantasy. When we look into Lecter’s eyes, we are looking at ourselves. In the actual world fantasy and reality often combine and collide intrapsychically but an imbalance or a failure to distinguish between the two can be dangerous. Psychoanalysts Abraham and Torok, in their exploration of the relation between incorporation and introjection, speak of the role of fantasy in the process:
‘When it is not truncated or deformed, fantasy can be doubly telling as regards both the subject and the danger to be parried. This is so because fantasy is inseparable from the intrapsychic state of affairs it is supposed to protect as well as from the metapsychological reality that demands a change.’ [Abraham & Torok, 1994, 126]
Fantasy protects but it also signifies the acceptance of a desire for a change in the subject’s state of being and it has a phenomenal power because it is fantasy. In Meiwes’ case, it seems that his fantasies had become inverted somehow, to the extent that he was compelled to enact them, that is he took a fantasy literally. No longer protected by his fantasy he had to become it, or rather, the fantasy inverted and he became subject to it. He really ate someone. He went to jail. He made his cannibalistic fantasy, whatever its causes or origins, real and thus destroyed its representational value. On the other hand, Lecter is not meant to represent a real individual as he is not based on actual serial killers.5 He is an accretion of literary and ideological references to a post-industrial, post- colonial identity crisis in Western culture. A modern day Lycaon and popular archetype, he stands for identity as emptied out of any compassion or empathy for others in the world, as shaped through consumption. 6 Like the Marquis de Sade’s libertine he puts forward an extreme rationalism constructed through a dispassionate violence that culminates in a condition that is not so much existential as autistic.7 This is a dystopic vision of modern man as beast, a creature driven by fantasy and the refusal to care for or relate to the actual world.
Incorporation itself is a kind of inverted metaphor that speaks of the actual act, as well as of the thing that it represents. Further, it (as fantasy) occurs in response to a gap or a loss – at the point where introjection (as normative process of identification) should have taken place. Abraham and Torok describe this in terms of a refusal to mourn the loss of a desired object.
’The fantasy of incorporation is the introduction of all or part of a love object or a thing into one’s body, possessing, expelling or alternatively acquiring, keeping, losing it... The fantasy of incorporation reveals a gap within the psyche; it points to something that is missing just where introjection should have occurred.’ [Abraham & Torok, 1994, 126] 8
In psychoanalytic thought, perception and introjection are the primary processes of identification; incorporation is a fantasy that comes into play when there is a refusal or inability to introject spontaneously, or when one becomes aware of the introjection process. When a gap in the psyche is revealed it also indicates a refusal of the ‘normal’ intersubjective relation, and is manifest as a refusal to care for others or, in psychoanalytic terms, a refusal to mourn. In this way, we read the over-determined fantasy as damaged or damaging to ‘normal’ behaviour. But is over-determined fantasy always a bad thing? When the difference between reality and fantasy becomes indistinguishable, as in Miewes’ case, it is fair to say that it is wholly damaging (not least to the man who was eaten). But what of popular fantasy like Lecter? Lecter is the heir to Baudelaire’s dystopic vision of humanity and he carries with him a great disturbance because of what he implies. 9 Rather than conclude that cannibalistic fantasy is a manifestation of humanity’s sickness it is more productive to question how this particular exhibition of desire is performed and identify what it signifies.
As an embodied representation of oral incorporation that actually eats the bodies of other human beings, Lecter literally turns the world to shit. This ‘wasting’ of another body disorders ideas of a homogeneous and contained system of being and it is precisely this disordering or disturbance that is the source of fascination. The horror of the observer, when the act is represented rather than actual is intertwined with pleasure. Humans from all cultures have always taken great delight in tales of monsters, in bloody and outrageous acts of cruelty. As George Bataille points out, in ‘The Cruel Practice of Art’,
‘When horror is subject to the transfiguration of an authentic art, it becomes a pleasure, an intense pleasure, but a pleasure all the same.’ But, he asks later ‘what are our reasons for being seduced by the very thing that, in a fundamental fashion, signifies damage to us, the very thing that has the power to evoke the more complete loss we undergo in death? [Bataille, 1985]
Bataille’s question is important – what is it about horror that seduces us? What is it we recognise and become fascinated with? It’s hard to speak of and if we do we may find ourselves publicly censored. No stranger to controversy, Baudelaire attempted to articulate his experience of facing the delights and horrors of excess and the subsequent sense of losing oneself in them.10 In Les Fleurs Du Mal, Baudelaire speaks from the position of being both fascinated and horrified by the results of, in the first place his own excess and in the second the excesses of the society around him. His perspective is dystopic, yet like the addict, he cannot quite help but betray the pleasure he takes in speaking of terrible things. He speaks – exquisitely and seductively – from experience. For Baudelaire, excess is necessarily a bad thing – its consequence is apathy and in apathy is damnation.
‘Il ferait volontiers de la terre un debris. Et dans un baillement avalerait le monde...’ [Baudelaire, 1972, 7]
This representation of l’ennui or boredom signals apathy or indifference. For Baudelaire, apathy drives modern man to horrendous acts and the inaction alluded to in the poem – that we can be unmoved and at a distance whilst observing the death or suffering of a fellow human – is symptomatic of the ‘evil’ within us. Describing the one that is ‘more evil than all the rest’, the one who would ‘voluntarily reduce the earth to waste, swallow the world in a yawn’ he implicates not only himself as writer but us as readers. That we could create such imagery or consider such sights as pleasurable, that we could remain impassive to them, he implies, is symptomatic of our own diseased natures. In Baudelaire’s poem (Au Lecteur) the one that watches impassively, tokes on his hookah sucking in the (hashish?) smoke.11 The body is not only distanced from the crowd – the world of social beings – observing voyeuristically, but it is in a state of torpor. Inhalation of smoke and incorporation of imagery are the only deeds of this otherwise inactive body. Whilst the lyricism of Baudelaire’s language in the ‘Fleurs du mal’ series of poems gives us the unmistakable taste of sensuous bodily pleasure, his imagery is bleak, speaking of death and horror. The words speak of enslavement by that infernal chemist, the devil, who concocts substances that alter our consciousness and who bewitches us with baroque and horrific imagery. All of which cause intense bodily pleasure, but the price to pay is a loss of sovereignty.12 The awful horror of things is revealed in Baudelaire’s realisation that it is we who are responsible. For Baudelaire, modern man stared into the mouth of hell, a hell of his own realisation, fantasy and desire. A century later we have a different reader. Lecteur becomes Lecter as we find ourselves reflected in the face of the beast.
Baudelaire’s positioning of excess as ‘evil’ is ultimately a moral position. The logic we employ to designate good/bad and positive/negative values to human activity reveals its inadequacy when it seeks to homogenise being and relies on spurious universals to do so (monotheistic morality/scientific objectivity/the body). In his consideration of the ‘use value’ of the Marquis de Sade, Georges Bataille argues that humans and their societies are composed of two contending drives – appropriation and excretion. [Bataille, 1985] Sade’s proffered excesses are positioned both literally and metaphorically as waste. Sexual activity in Sade’s writings is not productive in that it has nothing to do with reproduction – for example, pregnancy nearly always means death – and in this it is entirely excessive. Furthermore Sade’s insistence on coprophagy suggests more than an exceptionally exotic perversion – the body, for the coprophile, functions as a means of production, nothing must be wasted, not even the waste of the body. Bataille asserts that the body is subject to socially imposed limits but these are limits that the body continually resists in its production of waste. In his model, waste and excess reveal the failure in systematic thought and its philosophies. Systematic thought, as it fails, demonstrates entropy precisely because it is homogenous and homogeneity is aimed towards perpetual modification of individual elements. For Bataille, the unsustainability of the homogenous, systematic model is exposed, because it cannot account for excess. He defines appropriation as the defining characteristic of homogeneity and excretion as the result and proof of heterogeneity. Whilst there are definite parallels here with the psychoanalytic readings of introjection and projection, he does not argue towards reparation of the unified individual (as this would be homogeneous). Instead, his main focus is the economy of consumption (incorporation) and the body as heterogeneous entity.
‘Man does not only appropriate his food, but also the different products of his activity: clothes, furniture, dwellings, and instruments of production. Finally, he appropriates land divided into parcels. Such appropriations take place by means of a more or less conventional homogeneity (identity) established between possessor and the object possessed...In this respect, production can be seen as the excretory phase of appropriation, and the same is true of selling.’ [Bataille, 1985, 95]
Homogeneity relies on individual, discrete components that operate within a single system – a system that contains everything. For example, in Bataille’s reading, religions such as Islam, Christianity and Buddhism are homogeneous systems. They place a single deity ‘above’ the world, a deity who encompasses everything and every being in the world. In this way ‘God’ becomes the name for a system that contains everything in the world (God contains the world).13 Likewise for Bataille, scientific enquiry is a homogeneous system because it isolates individual phenomena, analyses and then collates the individual elements into a single result. However, the law of this system means that first the system must be maintained. That which does not accord with prescribed scientific thought will always be discounted (from science). Indeed the methodology of scientific enquiry is to isolate phenomena and to discount all but the individual components. The homogenic system cannot account for the actual individual body because not all bodies are the same. The individual body resists systematic thought – it resists because it always exceeds homogeneity through its production of waste and through its erotic drives.
Psychoanalytic thought reads incorporation as fantasy (as impaired introjection) and understands it as a refusal to mourn loss. The substitution of fantasy is read as a regression to a narcissistic condition, it is played out on the body (at times to extremes) and is read as abnormal or unusual – it is a problem to be solved. In contrast, Bataille reads excretion as the main drive accompanying appropriation (broadly equivalent to the psychoanalytic concept of introjection) and uses this economy as a means to subvert preconceptions about the limits of the body. Appropriation read through the trope of consumption, emphasises the materiality of the human condition. In considering the actual experience of an individual’s body rather than a single and abstracted idea of ‘the body’, incorporation necessarily produces waste.
Bataille reads the body as being in conflict with the limits set by the social configuration of ‘normal’ subjectivity. In modern capitalist societies, the body exposes the limitations of an exchange-value system because its bodily functions exceed the governing ideas of exchange and profit. The waste products of the body are accorded an entirely negative value in a homogenous system, whereas Sadean thought ascribes bodily waste and other emissions as productive (positive). Reading through Sade, Bataille contests that by considering waste and excessive sexual practices (i.e. biologically non-reproductive and cruel) we can better understand what is at stake when we speak of ‘the body’. He takes examples of the enactment of excess, in this and other writings, not so much to celebrate such practice but rather to show the limits in our conceptualisation of life. It is in this way that he argues that philosophy is an appropriation that necessitates waste.
‘The interest of philosophy resides in the fact that, in opposition to science or common sense, it must positively envisage the waste products of intellectual appropriation. Nevertheless, it most often envisages these waste products only in abstract forms of totality (nothingness, infinity, the absolute), to which it itself cannot give a positive content; it can thus freely proceed in speculations that more or less have as a goal, all things considered, the sufficient identification of an endless world with a finite world, an unknowable (noumenal) world with the known (phenomenal) world.’ [Bataille, 1985, 96]
The philosophical desire to appropriate exposes nothingness, infinity and the absolute, as its own particular waste products. It ultimately accords a negative value to waste and reveals its homogenous structure in its allocation of void as nothingness when, according to Bataille, nothing is excess. Every modern society, every city, every human being produces waste but Bataille bids us to take account of it as he reads this waste as revealing a resistance to the homogenous, normative and dominant system of capitalism. Capitalism generates a throwaway culture but it discounts the importance of waste, waste is counted as nothing, is designated as void. However, the by-products of any society, or for that matter any body, do not simply disappear or vanish. They have a material and psychic presence, even if we choose not to look at, or to account, for them. For artists, debris and waste have been a rich source of inspiration and raw material – the history of the found object in art attests to this. Artistic practice can be heterogeneous because it (sometimes) uses waste productively. Waste, for Bataille, insists on heterogeneity. He defines heterology, in the first place, by what it is not. It is not a science, which can only apply itself to homogenous elements.
‘Above all, heterology is opposed to any homogeneous representation of the world, in other words, to any philosophical system. The goal of such representations is always the deprivation of our universe’s sources of excitation and the development of a servile human species.’ [Bataille, 1985, 97]
Bataille argues that we rethink the parameters of what we understand by transgression and excess in order to escape an oppressively constant condition of servility. 14 Rather than seek to erase the idea of transgression he bids us look closer at our excesses so that we may discover better what it is to be human in an age of global capitalism. In Bataille’s terminology psychoanalysis is a science of the mind and therefore homogeneous, but it uncovers the importance of incorporation in shaping our understanding of being physically in the world. Further, Abraham and Torok’s reading of incorporation as anti- metaphoric indicates that the concept itself resists the limits of the psychoanalytic ‘system’ and what we consider to be ‘normal’. The remit of psychoanalysis is to identify our limits and then to attempt to repair the damage done when they are exceeded. 15
As I have argued, the trope of incorporation is fundamental in shaping identity and is especially significant in the investigation of the excessive vagaries of the flesh, as evident in specific art practices. I do not necessarily situate excess (or narcissism) as a problem to be solved or effaced but rather as an issue that can be productively and creatively explored. Concerning the specifics of my particular interest – the body in performance – the excess I speak of is understood broadly. Hyper-visibility, harm, or violence done to or by the body, public display of the body or sexual activity are immediate examples. I also locate as excessive less obvious responses or strategies. The body that bleeds, that sweats, spits or weeps, that shakes and shivers, the body that endures physical or mental stress, the body that behaves badly or madly, all in the name of art – these traits are also evidence of excess (excess of the contained and of the ordered).
Positioned as productive, waste and excess signal resistance to conventional understandings of the limits of the body. Earlier in this chapter I wrote, in relation to Baudelaire, that the price for total sensuous indulgence is the loss of sovereignty and implied that this logic does not stand up. This is not to dismiss the actual experience however. This loss of sovereignty equates (metaphorically) to the idea of selling one’s soul. It implies that there is a price to pay, that there is an exchange value for bodily indulgence. That a body may be led into addiction or disease is not the point though – it is rather that we are products of our culture and as such we have been schooled to believe that the axis of pleasure and bodily desire is an axis of evil. We believe in exchange value even if our bodies resist a closed (homogenous) system and we maintain an economy that cannot account for the waste it produces. As psychoanalysis has demonstrated the degree of prohibition attached to an object of desire is related to the intensity of desire for it. A body in the throes of desire is an anxious body in many ways. This anxiety is to some degree generated by a fear of losing control of oneself, of letting something/someone else take control. Rather than read anxiety as a toxic signifier, rather than turn away from it, if we explore that anxiety it is possible to see it as symptomatic of the assumed limits set on the body. The fear of ‘losing oneself’ becomes a crisis of identity and subsequently a crisis of the body. In this crisis we can detect not a response to ‘evil’ but rather a response to the potential for change, a response to the limits by which we judge who we are in the world becoming uncertain, with the potential to be redrawn.
1 In January 2004, a German court convicted self-confessed cannibal Armin Meiwes of manslaughter and
sentenced him to eight years and six months in prison. Meiwes admitted killing and eating Bernd Juergen Brandes three years previously, a er a sado-masochistic sex session. He met Brandes a er placing an advert on the Internet for "young, well-built men aged 18 to 30 to slaughter". Meiwes told investigators he took Brandes back to his home, where Brandes agreed to have his penis cut off, which Meiwes then sautéed and served up for them to eat together. Meiwes says he then killed Brandes with his consent. Meiwes ate the flesh of Brandes over several months, defrosting cuts from his freezer. It was only a er Brandes was dead that he could gain sexual satisfaction from eating his flesh. Source http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3443803.stm (date checked 26.08.05)
2 ‘Incorporation denotes a fantasy, introjection a process...[drawing on Melanie Klein]...fantasy is essentially narcissistic; it tends to transform the world rather than inflict harm on the subject.’ [Abraham & Torok, 1994, 125] iii Information about cannibalism was drawn from different sources. They are: Oxford Reference Dictionary, 1982, 126, Rachael Bell, The Ancient Taboo in Modern Times, www.crimelibrary.com/criminal_mind/psychology/cannibalism date checked 26.08.05, Wilkipedia Online Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Cannibalism#Modern_cannibalism date checked 26.08.05
4 Miewes,convicted of manslaughter in 2004 is to face a retrial for murder.Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4472593.stm date checked 26.08.05
5 Of course, what I say here about Miewes is speculation. In the same spirit, I am considering a theory that suggests a possible candidate as base for the character of Lecter. Thomas Harris is indulging in a literary game. Is it possible that the French writer/artist Pierre Klossowski is the basis for Hannibal Lecter? Hypocrite lecteur means reader. Harris is already playing word games with the characters (see chapter one notes about Baudelaire and Lecter). Klossowski is well known as reader of Sade, more than once he has been called an apologist for the Marquis. The clue is in his relation to the painter Balthus – they were brothers. In the novels, Harris mentions that Lecter is the cousin of the painter Balthus. This seemingly insignificant fact sits oddly within the text. It adds nothing to the character of Lecter for the reader, but in this way de Sade is alluded to, if not mentioned, making it clear that Harris meant for us to know that Lecter is not de Sade. But the odd family fact, the connection between Lecter and an artist known for his darkly sexualised images of young girls (it is also clear that Lecter is not primarily a sexual predator, he doesn’t rape) points us to who he is. However, Harris’ motivation will always remain a mystery as he refuses to discuss Lecter’s origins.
6 Lycaon is the Arcadian tyrant, featured in Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses, who killed, cooked and ate a man. For this crime of blasphemy, Zeus turned him into a werewolf (he was a prototype for subsequent were- creatures). Other mythical precedents inform the character of Lecter – Baba Yaga, Tantalus in the Underworld and the witch in Hansel and Gretel also spring to mind. For an interesting exploration of mythical monsters and their origins, see Marina Warner, ‘No Go the Bogeyman’ [Warner, 1998]
7 See chapter 3 for my comments of autism in this respect. ‘The curse which weighed upon Sade – and which only his childhood could explain – was this “autism” which prevented him from ever forgetting himself or being genuinely aware of the reality of the other person...Normally, it is as a result of the vertigo of the other made flesh that one is spellbound within one’s own flesh. If the subject remains confined within the solitude of his consciousness, he escapes this agitation and can rejoin the other only by conscious performance.’ [de Beauvoir, 1955, 22]
8 The extended quote is helpful here: ’The fantasy of incorporation is the introduction of all or part of a love object or a thing into one’s body, possessing, expelling or alternatively acquiring, keeping, losing it – here are varieties of fantasy indicating, in the typical forms of possession or feigned dispossession, a basic intrapsychic situation: the situation created by the reality of a loss sustained by the psyche. If accepted and worked through, the loss would require a major re-adjustment. But the fantasy of incorporation merely simulates profound psychic transformation through magic; it does so by implementing literally something that has only figurative meaning. So in order to have to ‘swallow’ a loss, we fantasise swallowing (or having swallowed) that which has been lost as if it were some kind of a thing. Two interrelated procedures can constitute the magic of incorporation: demetaphorization (taking literally what is meant figuratively) and objectivation (pretending that the suffering is not an injury to the subject but instead a loss sustained by the love object.). The magical ‘cure’ by incorporation exempts the subject from the painful process of reorganization. When in the form of imaginary or real nourishment, we ingest the love object we miss, this means that we refuse to mourn and that we shun the consequences of mourning even though our psyche is fully bereaved. Incorporation is the refusal to reclaim as our own the part of ourselves that we placed in what we lost; incorporation is the refusal to acknowledge the full import of the loss, a loss that, if recognised as such, would effectively transform us. In fine, incorporation is the refusal to introject loss. The fantasy of incorporation reveals a gap within the psyche; it points to something that is missing just where introjection should have occurred.’ As inverted metaphor, incorporation is the ‘not putting into words’ of something – it becomes ‘anti-metaphor’ (a term introduced by Abraham & Torok). In psychoanalytic terms, this annulment of figurative language signals regression to a kind of infantilism. As infants we learn to fill the empty, open and hungry mouth with cries, at first, and then with words. This desire or need for food is not initially distinguished from the desire or need for comfort. The adult who suffers the loss of a desired person/object may develop an incorporative fantasy, but that fantasy is kept secret because of the inability or refusal to speak of the loss. When words fail to fill the subject’s void an imaginary thing must be ‘inserted into the mouth in their place.’ This is simultaneously a move away from introjection towards incorporation and a denial of the problem. ‘The desperate ploy of filling the mouth with illusory nourishment has the equally illusory effect of eradicating the idea of a void to be filled with words…Born of the verdict of impracticable introjection, the fantasy of incorporation appears at once as its regressive and reflexive substitute. This means of course that every incorporation has introjection as its nostalgic vocation.’
9 See chapter 3
10 Following its initial publication in June 1857, Fleurs du mal attracted much criticism from certain quarters. It was deemed as being obscene and in defiance of the laws that protected religion and morality. Baudelaire was fined and six of the poems removed from the series. The full work was re-published posthumously.
11 Baudelaire’s experiments with hashish are well known and it is worth pointing out that he speaks of hallucinating whilst being under the influence, meaning that either his intake was prodigious or that the hashish available in Paris at that time was considerably stronger than it is now. Most likely the resin would have been soaked also in opium to produce such an effect – a common practice in the last century.
12 Here Baudelaire is referring the allegory of selling one’s soul to the devil, although the devil in the poem represents not just the evil within all men and women, but the machinic, capitalistic ‘God’ of modernity.
13 Patriarchy, as formulated through religious concepts of God the father, is homogeneous and systematic.
14 Here Bataille draws on Nietzsche’s arguments about the domestication of the body by culture. For Nietzsche, the individual is controlled and disciplined by the mechanisms of social control and the sublimation of bodily drives leads to the weakened individual. This leads to a reversal of the master/slave relationship in that the master is supplanted by the slave, but the new master brings with him a slave mentality. This slave morality resents the individual body and any threat to the ‘herd’, as Nietzsche describes it. The asceticism of Christian morality is an example of herd mentality and morality – submitting to (bodily) discipline leads to eventual reward (in heaven). ‘Herd instinct.— Wherever we encounter a morality, we also encounter valuations and an order of rank of human impulses and actions. These valuations and orders of rank are always expressions of the needs of a community and herd: whatever benefits it most—and secondmost, and thirdmost—that is also considered the first standard for the value of all individuals. Morality trains the individual to be a function of the herd and to ascribe value to himself only as a function. The conditions for the preservation of different communities were very different; hence there were very different moralities. Considering essential changes in the forms of future herds and communities, states and societies, we can prophesy that there will yet be very divergent moralities. Morality is herd instinct in the individual.’ Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘The Gay Science’, ed. Bernard Williams, 2001 (1887), pubs. Cambridge University Press, UK
15 Even though psychoanalysis identifies ‘excessive’ behaviour and works with that. It seeks to heal, or to restore the subject to ‘normality’.