The Poetics of Reverie 0807064130, 9780807064139

In this, his last significant work, an admired French philosopher provides extraordinary meditations on the relations be

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BEACON- BP-375 $3.45* V ikiiSl* ' *

,

i• ■

THE

POETICS OF

Childhood., LaMguaqe, OMCL idle COSMOS GASTON BACHELARD

Digitized by the Internet Archive in 2017 with funding from Kahle/Austin Foundation

https://archive.org/details/peoticsofreverieOObach

«•§

««§

«•§

GASTON BACHELARD

THE POETICS O F ^E V E R I E CHILDHOOD,

LANGUAGE,

Translated from

BEACON

the

AND

French

PRESS

by

THE

Daniel

COSMOS

Russell

^ BOSTON

La Poetique de la Reverie © i960 by Presses Universitaires de France Translation © 1969 by Grossman Publishers, Inc.

All rights reserved International Standard Book Number: 0-8070-6413-0 First published as a Beacon Paperback in 1971 by arrangement with Grossman Publishers, Inc. Published simultaneously in Canada by Saunders of Toronto, Ltd. Beacon Press books are published under the auspices of the Unitarian Universalist Association Printed in the United States of America

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Translator’s Preface

Men have always fashioned reveries out of sights and sounds, odors and memories. Indeed, reverie is such a common and even characteristic phenomenon of human nature that one may well wonder why it has not more often been the subject of scrutiny, description and analysis. Some of the reasons for this curious neglect may help explain the difficulties encountered in translating into English a discussion of reverie such as we find in this book by Gaston Bachelard. Reverie has traditionally been understood, especially in the United States, to be unproductive, impractical and so completely unempirical as to be considered almost immoral in a society oriented toward pure and sometimes mindless action. The communication of reveries is, of course, possible through the language of poetry, but the English language used in social and intellectual transactions within the context of contemporary Anglo-Saxon culture is poorly suited to the inspection and discussion of all that is unempirical. Not only have we Anglo-Saxons lost our genders, but because of our life style and attitude toward the everyday manifestations of the imagination, we have also become inattentive to the immensely rich resonances of conceits and the profound analogies to be felt in the verbal or visual resemblances of puns. The difference between the French and English languages and the resulting divergence of thought patterns in the two different cultures become abundantly clear as we read this extraordinary book. But since conceits and puns translate so

VI

Translator's Preface

poorly, since gender reveries can hardly be translated at all, the reader will have difficulty appreciating the enormously rich potential of Bachelard’s phenomenological method for the investigation of reverie. He should, however, become increasingly aware of the immense value of reverie and see how to make use of his own reverie in reading the poets with a new feeling of solidarity reaching far beyond the traditional forms of banal comprehension. A discussion of reverie is not easy even in the language in which the reverie took form. It is inseparable from the personal past of memories and images which belongs only to the dreamer, and each word he uses is colored by this past. And since a reverie, as Bachelard suggests, is inseparable as well from the language in which it was dreamed, a translation is especially difficult. The very nature of the dreamer’s language has shaped the reverie. So when a discussion or account of reveries is translated, the peculiarities of the original language must somehow be circumvented. That is why I have often been forced, in the course of this translation, to give the gender of French words and even the French words themselves on occasions when those words cast spells by their shape and sound as well as by their multiplicity of interacting meanings. Double meanings had to be explained in notes to alert the reader to puns and conceits. And, in some cases, I made no effort to translate, letting the reader discover the meaning of a word like chosier from the context as most French readers too would be obliged to do. Generally, these words refer to such a uniquely regional or personal reality as to be utterly untranslatable into English. Such explanatory devices were used as sparingly as possible and were intended to remain unobtrusive, but they were, it seems to me, necessary to make my description of Bachelard’s undertaking as clear and precise as possible. This word “description” may be disconcerting when used to refer to what is generally called a translation. But when one wishes to render a verbal creation (as opposed to a didactic statement) from one language to another, he is confronted with two equally unsatisfactory choices. He may, according to his talents, elaborate a similar, but never identical creation, or he may describe that creation as completely as possible

Translator's Preface

vii

in his own language. I have chosen to “describe” Gaston Bachelard’s inquiry into the nature and uses of reverie and have used the devices of notes and parentheses to make my “description” as objective, as dear, as impersonal, as photographic if you will, as possible. It is hoped that such attempted objectivity will faithfully present not only the method and the thought but the man as well, in all his articulate complexity, in all his wealth of human understanding. Daniel Russell Pittsburgh May 20, 1969

Contents

One

Two

Translator’s Preface

v

Introduction

i

Reveries on Reverie (The Word Dreamer)

27

Reveries on Reverie (“Animus”—“Anima”)

55

Three

Four

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Reveries toward Childhood