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Marquis de Sade and Continental Philosophy

Lode Lauwaert

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Reads six interpretations of de Sade in French post-war philosophy: Klossowski, Blanchot, Bataille, Lacan, Barthes and Deleuze

He might be best known for sex and violence, but Lode Lauwaert shows that the Marquis du Sade sits at a crossroads of surprisingly disparate branches of western culture: abstract art, Tom and Jerry, gnosticism, Kant’s moral philosophy, romanticism, scholasticism, stoicism and more. To explore these links, Lauwaert reads six interpretations of Sade in French postwar philosophy – looking specifically at Pierre Klossowski, Maurice Blanchot, Georges Bataille, Jacques Lacan, Roland Barthes and Gilles Deleuze.

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1. Godlessness, Purity, and Simulacra
2. The Terror of Writing
3. Apathy, Energy, and Transgression
4. Ethics and Modernity
5. Sadism as Formalism
6. Literature and the Clinical

About the Author

Lode Lauwaert is Postdoctoral Researcher and Lecturer in the Institute of Philosophy at the University of Leuven. He has been a visiting scholar at Boston College, Stellenbosch University and the University of Vienna. His research focuses on war, technology, and continental philosophy. He teaches, among others things, philosophical anthropology and philosophy of technology.


Writing with great clarity, erudition, and insight, Lode Lawaert has produced a fascinating study of the interpretations of Sade by Klossowski, Blanchot, Bataille, Lacan, Barthes, and Deleuze. Marquis de Sade and Continental Philosophy is an invaluable introduction to post-WWII French philosophy via Sade.

- Leonard Lawlor, Penn State University

Often acknowledged as having exercised a profound fascination on French thinkers in the 20th-century, but rarely, if at all, recognized for its far-reaching significance, Marquis de Sade and Continental Philosophy explores the reception of de Sade's seductive writings in Bataille, Blanchot, Klossowski, Lacan, Barthes, and Deleuze. Lauwaert's singular achievement is to have examined the complex ways in which critical themes in the development of these French thinkers - desire, sexuality, violence, language, Humanism, sacrifice and the sacred, the unconscious, God - passed through their respective confrontation with de Sade, as if thinking for or against Sade represented a rite of passage to philosophy itself. In addition to illuminating and informed treatments of these key moments in de Sade's reception, Lauwaert presents a perspicuous argument for why, as Apollinaire foretold, the divine Marquis came to dominate the 20th-century and its post-modern beyond.

- Nicolas de Warren, Penn State University

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