For Blanchot, why is Sade significant to literature?

According to Maurice Blanchot, Marquis de Sade’s significance to literature has been neglected. For Blanchot, Sade's work "immediately horrified the world." No one could "dare compete with Sade's licentiousness." Blanchot seems to argue that Sade's unique ability to shock and offend has caused him to be ignored by literary critics. They'd rather not investigate such obscene material. Blanchot believes that closely examining Sade's unrivaled raunchiness can help us understand all that literature can do and say.

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There are a number of ways in which we can talk about why Maurice Blanchot believes Marquis de Sade is so significant to literature.

One trait that Blanchot immediately focuses on is the provocative, transgressive nature of Sade's works. When we read Blanchot's essay on Sade, he starts off by...

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There are a number of ways in which we can talk about why Maurice Blanchot believes Marquis de Sade is so significant to literature.

One trait that Blanchot immediately focuses on is the provocative, transgressive nature of Sade's works. When we read Blanchot's essay on Sade, he starts off by telling us how Sade's novel Justine "immediately horrified the world" once it was published. A few sentences later, Blanchot asks: "Who in this day and age would dare compete with Sade's licentiousness?"

What is Blanchot saying? We don't need to guess. He tells us. For Blanchot, the degree to which Sade shocks and titillates puts him in a class of his own. For this special talent, Sade has an extreme importance to literature. How many other writers have gone as far as Sade? According to Blanchot, "No other writer, during any other era, has ever dared to venture beyond" him.

For Blanchot, Sade might be to literature what Taylor Swift is to music or Michael Jordan is to basketball. He's one of the greatest and most important figures in his field. Yet unlike Swift or Jordan, Sade, according to Blanchot, has been overlooked and ignored. He reprimands literature critics for failing to "interrogate and examine" Sade. He calls the literary community's general disregard for Sade "an extraordinary negligence."

Again, Blanchot seems to say that Sade's contribution to literature is his uniquely offensive and pornographic content. Yet it's the offensive and pornographic nature of his work that's led critics to neglect him. They don't want to talk about such sordid work. Yet if we ask Blanchot, it's Sade's unsurpassed raunchiness that makes him crucial to our understanding of all the ways in which literature can be used and deployed.

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