The cradle of humanity: prehistoric art and culture

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Zone Books, 2005 - Art - 210 pages
5 Reviews
The Cradle of Humanity: Prehistoric Art and Culture collects essays and lectures by Georges Bataille spanning 30 years of research in anthropology, comparative religion, aesthetics, and philosophy. These were neither idle nor idyllic years; the discovery of Lascaux in 1940 coincides with the bloodiest war in history—with new machines of death, Auschwitz, and Hiroshima. Bataille's reflections on the possible origins of humanity coincide with the intensified threat of its possible extinction.

For Bataille, prehistory is universal history; it is the history of a human community prior to its fall into separation, into nations and races. The art of prehistory offers the earliest traces of nascent yet fully human consciousness—of consciousness not yet fully separated from natural flora and fauna, or from the energetic forces of the universe. A play of identities, the art of prehistory is the art of a consciousness struggling against itself, of a human spirit struggling against brute animal physicality. Prehistory is the cradle of humanity, the birth of tragedy.

Bataille reaches beyond disciplinary specializations to imagine a moment when thought was universal. Bataille's work provides a model for interdisciplinary inquiry in our own day, a universal imagination and thought for our own potential community. The Cradle of Humanity: Prehistoric Art and Culture speaks to philosophers and historians of thought, to anthropologists interested in the history of their discipline and in new methodologies, to theologians and religious comparatists interested in the origins and nature of man's encounter with the sacred, and to art historians and aestheticians grappling with the place of prehistory in the canons of art.

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Review: Cradle of Humanity

User Review  - Andrew G. Gibson - Goodreads

I encountered this book in a fortuitous spasm of serendipity after watching Herzog's documentary about Lascaux, so I had to pick it up. I disagree with some other comments that say this is not the ... Read full review

Review: Cradle of Humanity

User Review  - Michael - Goodreads

It's fairly incredible what Bataille reads into just a few cave paintings and sculptures from tens of thousands of years ago in terms of the earliest human conceptions of magic, the realm of the dead ... Read full review

Contents

The Sediment of the Possible
9
A Note on the Translation
33
The Frobenius Exhibit at the Salle Pleyel
45
Copyright

6 other sections not shown

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About the author (2005)

Georges Bataille was a French poet, novelist, and philosopher. He was born in Billon, Puy-de-Dome, in central France on September 10, 1897. His father was already blind and paralyzed from syphilis when Bataille was born. In 1915, Bataille's father died, his mind destroyed by his illness. The death marked his son for life. While working at the Bibliotheque National in Paris during the 1920s, Bataille underwent psychoanalysis and became involved with some of the intellectuals in the Surrealist movement, from whom he learned the concept of incongruous imagery in art. In 1946 he founded the journal Critique, which published the early work of some of his contemporaries in French intellectual life, including Roland Barthes and Jacques Derrida. Bataille believed that in the darkest moments of human existence-in orgiastic sex and terrible death-lay ultimate reality. By observing them and even by experiencing them, actually in sex and vicariously in death, he felt that one could come as close as possible to fully experiencing life in all its dimensions. Bataille's works include The Naked Beast at Heaven's Gate (1956), A Tale of Satisfied Desire (1953), Death and Sensuality: A Study of Eroticism and the Taboo (1962), and The Birth of Art: Prehistoric Painting (1955). Bataille died in Paris on July 8, 1962.

Stuart Kendall is assistant professor of foreign languages and humanities at Eastern Kentucky University. He has edited and translated two collections of essays by Bataille, "The Unfinished System of Nonknowledge" and "The Cradle of Humanity,"

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