Figures and Backgrounds of Kojevian Hegelianism in France: Bataille, Lacan, Queneau

Between 1933-1939, Alexandre Kojève reoriented French thinking of the time, translating and commenting Hegel’s “Phenomenology of the Spirit” during a seminar at the École pratique de hautes études. The small, elite public included, among others, intellectuals such as Raymond Aron, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Éric Weil, but also Jacques Lacan, Georges Bataille, and Raymond Queneau. Because of the importance of Kojève’s seminar in their own works, my thesis centers on the three latter. The specificity of Kojève’s reading of Hegel was to combine existentialism and Marxism by putting forward un Homme, a “Man” considered on one hand to be someone “dead living a human life” and on the other hand, to be Negativity deploying itself in Struggle and in Work. For Kojève, the human being is an agent in a historical scenario in which the Master-Slave relation and the Begierde (desire for recognition) concept play an operatory role in the dialectic reversal between animal-ness and human-ness, then ending in a post-history in which the human being, having become Wise and idle, paradoxically returns to his initial animal state.

This original reading gave rise not only to a true renewal of French studies of Hegel, but also spread to fields a priori different from classical philosophy, such as psychoanalysis and avant-garde literature. This can be seen in the major role, sometimes unrecognized, played by Jacques Lacan, Raymond Queneau and Georges Bataille. Their respective works have in common their confrontation with Kojève’s thought and an approach to thought, seen from the angle of poetic invention, as an issue both esthetic and ethico-political. It is through this double prism that I examine the figures and systems that bring together and separate the thinking of Lacan, Bataille and Queneau. It is not my intention to use their thinking in three monographic studies, but rather to define their common questioning, traces of which can be found in each thanks to reciprocal fertilization of ideas and critical orientations. My thesis is therefore not structured by parallelism but on the contrary, by the examination of different dialectic combinations : after studying the foundations in the section entitled “Kojève with Bataille/Lacan/Queneau” (a reference to the title of Lacan’s famous article, “Kant with Sade”), I continue with the resulting filiations between Bataille, Lacan, and Queneau. Through their exchanges, we perceive the fecundity of Kojève’s reading of Hegel as it manifests itself in a unique way in each of these three authors and which I attempt to bring to light in my work.