Thursday, June 23, 2011

Gaston Bachelard – The Poetics of Space: The attic and the basement

Gaston Bachelard – The Poetics of Space - summary and review
part 1 - 2 - 3 - 4
The Poetics of Space
The house, says Gaston Bachelard in "The Poetics of Space", is a body of images which gives the illusion of stability. He offers a vertical image of the house which is created by the polarity of the attic and basement which denote, for Bachelard, irrationality and rationality respectively. The reason for going up to the attic is rather obvious for the attic not only shelters us from the weather but it also makes apparent the whole structure of the house. The attic, in Bachelard's The Poetics of Space, is a metaphor for clarity of mind. The basement, on the contrary, is the darker, subterranean and irrational entity of the house. Both this sites appear in our dreams and produce varying kinds of them.

Bachelard relies on Jung to account for his psychoanalytic metaphor in which when a person hears suspicious sounds coming from the basement he rushes to the attic to see what they are, fearing to go down to the basement.

One of the problems with this metaphor introduced in The Poetics of Space is that urban homes do not have an attic nor basement, contrary to the countryside homes which Bachelard obviously has in mind. Therefore Bachelard concludes that urban homes lack the vertical quality of intimacy. The urban boxes, as Bachelard puts it, have neither roots nor a space around them. Their relations with space have become artificial. the only way urban residential apartments can offer the experience elaborated upon by Bachelard in The Poetics of Space in by employing our imagination, and here Bachelard describes his own personal experience in a Paris apartment in which he had to mentally imagine his room and the city as nature, turning the sofa into a boat rocking on the waves, and the city into an ocean. 

Gaston Bachelard – The Poetics of Space - summary and review
part 1 - 2 - 3 - 4