Foucault, Michel, ‘A Preface to Transgression’, in Bataille: A Critical Reader, ed. by Fred Botting and Scott Wilson (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1998), pp. 24-40

Although not about music, Foucault’s ‘A Preface to Transgression’ is discussed in musicology and has inspired compositions such as James Dillon’s Blitzschlag. [1] On first engagement, frequent rhetorical questions, and sentences with multiple clauses add an ambiguous quality to the overall message, but this is waylaid on each re-read when the questions begin to facilitate engagement with each concept. As such, Foucault teaches his point rather than dictates it. Through examples of Bataille’s work, and reference to the thoughts of other philosophers, for example Kant and Nietzsche, Foucault explains how transgression is neither negative nor positive, and because transgression is the act of crossing a limit-line, it confirms the existence of a limit. The total space of the limit-line is probably the total space of transgression because, once the limit-line is transgressed, the act of transgression ceases to exist. Foucault’s description of the limit-line as a ‘space’ is pertinent to exploring the interaction of the component spaces of the overall compositional space in the research topic of this bibliography.


[1] For example, see : Dillon, James, Blitzschlag (London: Peters Edition, 2001); Spencer, Michael, ‘Re-placing the Dialectic: Notions of Compositional Procedure in James Dillon’s German Tryptych’ in British Postgraduate Musicology On-line, 5 (2002) <> [accessed 22nd October 2012]; this is not an exhaustive list of examples.

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