Bachelard and the plasticity of matter. Abstract delivery: 1 December 2011

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Altre Modernità (Other Modernities) Università degli Studi di Milano
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Special issue

Bachelard and the plasticity of matter

edited by Renato Boccali and Laura Scarabelli

“The soul suffers from a deficit of material imagination". So Bachelard in L’Eau et le rêves censors the process of deobjectivization of the real that has progressively pushed us away from the world, preventing us from inhabiting it. Man’s sense of foreignness towards things is indeed the reflex of dominant objectification, made inevitable by the affirmation of techno-science that, although representing the most advanced expression of human rational activity and the means of affirmation of a new humanism of knowledge, inexorably interrupts the ‘tonifying’ dialects of image and matter. The point is, therefore, to recover the sense of things, and go back to living the world through imagination. To do this, says Bachelard, it is necessary to wake up the imagination that lives in contact with the elements and give it new life, making it dynamic. The imagination the philosopher talks about is not the imagination of shapes but that of materials, according to the tetralogy of fire, water, air and earth, and which is the subject of his works dedicated to the elements of classic cosmogony. Imagination as the expression of active psychism deforms the primary images offered by perception, freeing its imaginative potential that, taking root in one of the elements, becomes a real source of production of the imaginary. Imagination, as vital force, is subject to the rhythms of contraction and distension, rest and movement, introversion and extroversion that make up the basic polarity of psychism, thus founding two distinct systems, the day and the night one (according to Durand’s re-elaboration).
Primordial materials can activate rêveries only when they are transformed and manipulated and then made dynamic according to different vector lines of force that make it possible for the rêveur to dilate his being, widen it, thus participate to the totality of life, and really inhabit the world. In this way, imagining a cosmos is the natural quality of rêverie. Getting rid of the real, imagination allows us to reconquer our ego's interior space, re-tuning it to the world's rhythm, according to a space-time unit.
Through the refusal of oniric and night images, which only deep psychoanalysis can try to scan, Bachelard invites us to take possessions of more superficial rêveries, those that emerge in onirically spontaneous states, in which images present themselves in their budding state, in their immediacy. Among these, predominant are natural images which, since they are fundamental, are not yet representations but only dynamic orientations, like for instance the tree, the rock, the crystal, the house, etc. Such images show their creative dynamism when they absorb an expressive shape, whether written or figurative even if, in Bachelard’s opinion, word is the privileged expressive vehicle. The verbal image is the result of pre-existing images having roots in one of the four elements, renewed, manipulated and unforeseeably re-emerged. These very images allow us, in turn, based on a dynamic theory of reception, to rediscover the unity of our ego under the aegis of one of the elements, making it possible for the images proposed by the literary text to ‘resound’ in us, and awaken our sleepy imagination. Setting imagination in motion again allows us to rediscover the right balance between internal and external, between our ego and the world, thus reconquering the earth’s song, made silent by the abstractions of science.
Fifty years from Bachelard’s death (16 October 1962), his work is ever so topical. His call for material imagination, far from being a simple romantic Arcadia, stimulates a reflection on the ‘fantastic’ power of matter, on its ability to generate images in an age that seems to be overcome by a simulacrum dimension and the empty virtuality of the media iconosphere. Recovering the spirit of Bachelard’s work, this special issue intends to investigate, according to an applied, comparative and not merely exegetic dimension, the following lines of research:

- Ecocriticism: literary and ecologic criticism in the light of material imagination;
- From the world’s disenchantment to its re-enchantment through the poetics of elements;
- Bachelard and literary criticism: heritage and overtaking of the Geneva School
- The literary image: from Bachelard to visual studies;
- Rhetorical strategies of literary image construction: the syntax of the imaginary;
- Rhythm-analysis and poetic production: from material to vocal substance;
- The imaginary in the elements of children's literature: for a literary pedagogy of imagination;
- The ethics of literary image: Bachelard and the tonification of imagination through to the “happy rêverie”.

Naturally, if different proposals on the subject should be put forth, the Scientific Committee will thoroughly evaluate them, aiming to widen the exploration undertaken with this issue to include any articulated and original suggestions.
The editorial office invites potential contributors to take notice of the following deadlines. Proposals should be sent in the form of a 10 (min.)-20 (max.) line abstract with a short biosketch to by no later than 1 December 2011.
The editorial office will inform authors whose contributions are accepted by 15 December 2011. Contributions must be received by 15 May 2012.
The issue will be published by 16 October 2012.
Reviews or interviews to authors or researchers dealing with the issue’s subject will also be welcome. In order to make the contributions as consistent as possible, the editors are fully available to be contacted by authors by email ( ; ) or through the editorial office.

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