Parisian Messianism: Catholicism, Decadence, and the Transgressions of Georges Bataille  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Parisian Messianism: Catholicism, Decadence, and the Transgressions of Georges Bataille is an essay by Michael Weingrad. It was published in History & Memory 13:2 (2001) 113-133

"Among the many uses to which Gershom Scholem's studies of Sabbatianism have been put, one of the most audacious is certainly Jeffrey Mehlman's attempt to argue that the intellectual lineage of French post-structuralism can be traced back to the seventeenth-century apostate-messiah, Sabbatai Zevi. Mehlman, a literary theorist and professor at Boston University, has suggested in two books ( Legacies of Antisemitism in France and Walter Benjamin for Children: An Essay on his Radio Years ) that the transgressive spirit of Sabbatianism was transmitted by Scholem to his close friend, Walter Benjamin. According to Mehlman, Benjamin then imparted the Sabbatian mindset to the French thinker Georges Bataille, who knew Benjamin in Paris in the 1930s. And since Bataille was a central influence on the whole pantheon of French postmodernism -- from Jacques Derrida to Julia Kristeva to Michel Foucault to Jean Baudrillard -- the subversive spirit of French theory can be seen as a late manifestation of this heretical, Jewish messianism. Fascinated by the Sabbatian concept of "holiness through sin" (a subject that Scholem discussed in a 1936 essay of that name), Mehlman locates this nihilistic... "[1]




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