Initial Thoughts on Gaston Bachelard’s Water and Dreams

Reading Water and Dreams: An Essay On the Imagination of Water, and, although at times the text surprises you (I am finicky on terms of purity leading to ‘white’), he makes some movements that renders imagination fascinating. He writes, “Material Imagination is sure of itself when it has recognized the ontological value of a metaphor. On the contrary, phenomenalism in poetry is a powerless doctrine,” (Bachelard, 32). The material imagination is something he began in his workThe Psychoanalysis of Fire, which is amazing in itself.

There seems to be an embodiment to metaphor that he argues science tries to disavow through the term experimentation. Bachelard writes, “one can study only what one has first dreamed about. Science is formed rather on a reverie than on an experiment, and it takes a good many experiments to dispel the mists of a dream,” (Bachelard, Psychoanalysis of Fire, 22). Bachelard is not fighting against science per say, but how science comes about. It would be a fallacy to say that science is just experimentation. Rather, it is through reverie, focused dreaming on a particular object, that allows one to imagine a possibility and move from that to a theory that is experimented upon.

Bachelard wanted to introduce the “necessity” of desire in experimentation, as space of complexity in the ability to think to make poetry, to experiment. It is not based on need, but desire, desire to create, to know, to become. Thus, when focusing on a particular object, in the case for Bachelard, Water, he is able to imagine with the material itself, and evokes metaphors that provide ontological value from the material, so as to exist beyond itself. He is establishing the creative metaphors that can derive from the material itself, to empower the space of imagination to explore.

Will write more on this later.

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