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Air and Dreams: An Essay on the Imagination of Movement [Hardcover]

Gaston Bachelard


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December 1988 0911005110 978-0911005110
Air and Dreams: An Essay on the Imagination of Movement - by Gaston Bachelard Trans. Edith and Frederick Farrell. Bachelard uses his extensive knowledge of the poetry of Poe, Blake, Shelley, and Nietzsche to amplify the images of the airy elements. THE BACHELARD TRANSLATIONS are the inspiration of Joanne H. Stroud, Director of Publications for The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, who in 1981 contracted with José Corti to publish in English the untranslated works of Bachelard on the imagination. Gaston Bachelard is acclaimed as one of the most significant modern French thinkers. From 1929 to 1962 he authored twenty-three books addressing his dual concerns, the philosophy of science and the analysis of the imagination of matter. The influence of his thought can be felt in all disciplines of the humanities - art, architecture, literature, language, poetics, philosophy, and depth psychology. His teaching career included posts at the College de Bar-sur-Aube, the University of Dijon, and from 1940 to 1962 the chair of history and philosophy of science at the Sorbonne. One of the amphitheaters of the Sorbonne is called "L'Amphi Gaston Bachelard," an honor Bachelard shared with Descartes and Richelieu. He received the Grand Prix National Lettres in 1961-one of only three philosophers ever to have achieved this honor. The influence of his thought can be felt in all disciplines of the humanities-art, architecture, literature, poetics, psychology, philosophy, and language.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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STUDIES OF THE IMAGINATION, like many inquiries into psychological problems, are confused by the deceptive light of etymology. Read the first page
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars images of elevation prepare the dynamics of ethical life Nov. 30 2007
By S. Lee - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Air and Dreams (1943) is one of Bachelard's four studies on literary imagination, imagination whose destiny is determined by four fundamental elements. The other three are: The Psychoanalysis of Fire (1938), Water and Dreams (1942), and the two "earth" books (The Earth and Reveries of Rest (1946), The Earth and Reveries of Will (1948)). If the reader wants to see Bachelard the philsopher of imagination at work, Air and Dreams may be the best place to start, since it is here that he posits his philosphical positions a little more clearly and explores them in more depth than he does in other works.

To Bachelard, imagination, as a fundamental psychic value, is what makes human freedom possible. To imagine is for our psyche to experience "openness" and "novelty," and in this regard, imagiation and perception--habitual way of seeing things--are antithetical. As he writes in the Introduction: "Imagination allows us to leave the ordinary course of things ... To imagine is to absent oneself, to launch out toward a new life." Such "form of human boldness," however, is never an escapist lapse into fantasy, since to Bachelard the materialist, "the imaginary is immanent in the real" while "in the realm of the imagination transcendence is added to immanence."

Since the advent of psychoanalysis, sickness of normality or normality of sickness in our mental life are taken for granted. Everybody is neurotic, more or less. So, Freudian psychoanalysis is generally credited with revealing the dark recesses of human psyche, giving it the name of "unconscious," and hence with accepting 'unreason' as a strong force in our mental life. But has it explained 'unreason' adequately? Bachelard says no. To him, the blindess of classical psychoanalysis is that it misses the "aesthetic" aspect of dreams. With its essentially rationalizing tendency, psychoanalysis usually turn dreams into a text of symbols, which in turn is made into an array of concepts. Hence, to rational psychoanalysts, dreams of flight always symbolize erotic desires, which can be explained with a variety of conceptual tools made for anayzing human sexuality and its repression.

Limitations of such approach are obvious when we read, for instance, images of flight in Shelley's "Prometheus Unbound" or images of ascending, or conquering vertigo, in Nietzsche. All testaments to a profound and simple life, to the power of imagination as a liberating force, these images have little to do with the poets' voluptuous desires, repressed or not. Indeed, neurosis to Bachelard is essentially a mal-function of imagination. As he notes in the Introduction: "A person deprived of the function of the unreal is just as neurotic as the one deprived of the reality function. It could even be said that difficulties with the function of the unreal have repercussions for the reality function. If the imagination's function of openness is insufficient, then perception itself is blurred."

The chapter on Nietzsche ("Nietzsche and the Ascensional Psyche") would be of particular interest to Nietzsche students. Here we see how Bachelardian attention to imagination can reveal the hidden law at work behind the apparently accidental arrays of literary images. In the case of Nietzsche, his numerous images of conquest and domination, his intoxicated affirmation of will to power, were generally seen as indications of his megalomania, perhaps inevitable but still an uncomfortable aspect of his philosophy. Walter Kaufmann for instance thinks of such element as clearly an expression of Nietzsche's "snobbery" and "infatuation" with domination, which, he is quick to add, are perpetually sublimated and spiritualized. To Bachelard, these images of Nietzsche form an "experimental physics of the moral life," which lets us experience an "accelerated becoming," or "transformation of energy." They are ones that faithfully follow the destiny of Nietzschean soul.

With this tour-de-force chapter on Nietzsche, Air and Dreams has many more magical chapters, chapters on individual poets such as, yes, Shelley, and Poe, and more theme-oriented ones on "sky," "clouds," or "trees." The book can be read as an implicit plea for curing the ills of modernity, and in this sense, would be read fruitfully together with such notable critics of modernity as Adorno, Benjamin, or even Lukacs.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Learn to fly March 21 2005
By Peter FYFE - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you've never been taught to fly, this is a great place to learn. Bachelard will show you how to discover your buoyancy, remove your reliance on the intellectual feathered wings of angels, and make a pure leap into thin air, supported only by dreams. It's one hell of voyage to take with this wonderful man. It's frequently bewildering, and oftentimes leaves one longing for the solid ground of a more traditional discourse. But if you can find your way through the poetic fog to meet Bachelard on his own terms, you may be lucky enough to rediscover the boundless terrain that is poesis, to unleash your imagination from intellect's grasp, and then discover verticality as you take flight in the metaphor that is subtle air, as I did. Warning: This is no book for the literal minded.

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