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The Poetics of Space

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  8,505 ratings  ·  451 reviews
Since its first publication in English in 1964, French philosopher Gaston Bachelard's Poetics of Space remains one of the most appealing and lyrical explorations of home. Bachelard takes us on a journey, from cellar to attic, to show how our perceptions of houses and other shelters shape our thoughts, memories, and dreams.

"A magical book. . . . The Poetics of Space is a pr
Paperback, 282 pages
Published 1994 by Beacon (first published 1957)
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Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Imagine you're magically transported back to your first home. You know - the one you lived in as an infant.

Eureka... suddenly the mists of time and faulty memory withdraw, and it all comes back to you!

Every nook and cranny, every secret, mystical corner, each minute detail of your home and of the enthralled childhood you once enjoyed would flood your heart with a forgotten, Elysial joy...

I used to retain a vivid and unmistakable memory of lying in bed as an infant in a dark, warm room and heari
Feb 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I've failed to explain Bachelard to so many people by now that I should know better. I should write some sort of meta-review/hymn/grocery list here, but I'm afraid. I'm afraid to wash the freaking hem of this book.

Probably the best thing I can say about The Poetics of Space is that, in thinking so hard about what makes a poetic image work, it really becomes more of a prose poem than a book of philosophy. Bachelard is trying to understand the "happy mind" - the mind making itself a home everywher
Ahmad Sharabiani
La Poétique de l'Espace = The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard

The Poetics of Space is a 1958 book about architecture by the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard. Commentators have compared Bachelard's views to those of the philosopher Martin Heidegger.

"Sometimes the house of the future is better built, lighter and larger than all the houses of the past, so that the image of the dream house is opposed to that of the childhood home…. Maybe it is a good thing for us to keep a few dreams of a h
Rakhi Dalal
Jan 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those interested in art
Shelves: favorites, journey, dreams
A bestowed mind, when undertaking the poetic journey of imagination, is elated at discovering sudden corners, pathways and bridges which lead to those places where the being surges to acquire intimacy with that notion which transpires oneness with life. Sometimes these places have always been there around waiting to be discovered. Sometimes the discovery is not sudden but gradual, brought about by a continuing familiarity with the places. The wooden door, whose smell begets a sense of warmth or ...more
Jun 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
“We build within ourselves stone
on stone a vast haunted castle.”

-Vincent Monteiro, Vers sur verre

”Space that has been seized upon by the imagination cannot remain indifferent space subject to the measures and estimates of the surveyor. It has been lived in, not in its positivity, but with all the partiality of the imagination.”

“A house that stands in my heart
My cathedral of silence
Every morning recaptured in dream
Every evening abandoned
A house covered with dawn
Open to the winds of my
Dec 31, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013, lightwieght
Bachelard offers nothing, and I mean nothing, new in terms of philosophical insight or logical exposition, in ‘Poetics’. Decidedly unoriginal in its portrayal of concepts, associations and representation, this book brings no new angle, no new vista on the dynamics of the house in all its possible permutations: nest, shell ,miniature (doll’s house), accessories included (wardrobe, chests, drawers, locked pendants, etc). Further, Bachelard ired me continuously with well meaning but frankly idiotic ...more
Jun 16, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: theory
[W]e are never real historians, but always near poets, and our emotion is perhaps nothing but an expression of a poetry that was lost.

This is not what I expected. The Poetics of Space is not some rigorous discussion of the concept of home or the distinction between inside and outside. This is a meditation. Bachelard prefers "daydream". As one reads, one takes shorthand from the philosopher's imagination. The text is steeped in whimsy and speculation. The citations refer to the poetic, not the p
Dec 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
It's one of those great books with the rare ability to put into words everything I've always known. *

* Wittgenstein says "About what one can not speak, one must remain silent." Of course, as a philosopher, he was right. But what is unspeakable is also exactly where poets must venture forth a primitive utterance. Not to fill it up brashly with idle talk, but to consecrate it with voices which will increase the silence. This is why phenomenology as practiced by Bachelard, though a branch of philos
At once a deliberate and graceful coalescence of phenomenology, poetry, and timelessly beautiful and ornate French prose, the philosopher Bachelard weaves from lyric to lyric with endless creativity, but this is notwithstanding his carefully unspeculative commentary. As we move from section to section, syntheses of various theories on phenomena start to take form, and a wondrous intuition is recognized within our being, that is our perception's relationship to the outer world as a recollective s ...more
Khashayar Mohammadi
Though I've read this book a few times to capture the nuances of Bachelard's analyses, I still can't say I have a good grasp on the content to write a wholesome review worthy of its content.

All I can say as a layman, is that this book has helped me dismantle the topology of quite a few poems over the years. Topoanalysis has become a seminal aspect of my reading as well as my writing. I highly recommend this book to every writer who wishes to dismantle their childhood, because believe me when I s
Oct 04, 2007 rated it liked it
I can understand why so many people consider The Poetics of Space to be such an important book, but I found it rather uneven. The most interesting section, far and away, is the introduction. Bachelard begins the book by laying out his theory of the poetic image. Unlike metaphor, which is merely an intellectual comparison, the true poetic image causes a deep resonance in the reader. Upon glancing a poetic image for the home, for example, all of the homes of the reader's past well up in his imagi ...more
Sep 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: lovers with bookshelves for walls
I was thinking of how to explain why I love reading Bachelard so much, and the best I can come up with for now is my love for his unusually deep way of thinking. This book, like others I have read of his, delves into the poetry of experience. In this book he approached space, as in the places that surround us and that we occupy. In the table of contents: The House: from cellar to garret; House & Universe; Drawers, Chests and Wardrobes; Nests; Shells; Corners; Miniature; Intimate Immensity; Diale ...more
Sep 14, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
My hopes for an intelligent reading of intimate and public spaces were squashed by Bachelard's constant quoting of Rilke and endless pages about snails in their shells. The constant comparisons between psychology, psychoanalysis and phenomenology became tedious as soon as I realized phenomenology would always win. I know this is a classic, but it read like a drunk man monopolizing conversation at dinner. ...more
Mar 30, 2012 rated it it was ok
It just goes to show that the transitive property of literary taste isn't very reliable. Michael Pollan liked this book; I like Michael Pollan's books; ergo, I'd like this book. Nope.

It wasn't Bachelard's preoccupation with psychoanalysis, although that hasn't aged very well -- the nattering on about psychoanalytical approaches to phenomenology sounded silly and smelled moldy, and was about as engaging as reading about phrenological approaches (actually, that might have been more interesting). E
Jun 16, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: theory
I definitely feel that I got stronger as a writer as a result of the time I put into reading this book. Bachelard claims to, and in most cases succeeds in, examining the "dialectical shadings" of all manner of things associated with home: cabinets, shelves, nooks, crannies, dressers and more. I appreciated the fluent mixing of psychoanalysis and lyrical criticism. My main beef with the book lies in what Bachelard seems to neglect: what about experiences of place that are marked by trauma? Not al ...more
Oct 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
“It is on the plane of the daydream and not on that of facts that childhood remains alive and poetically useful within us. Throughout this permanent childhood, we maintain the poetry of the past. To inhabit oneirically the house we were born in means more than to inhabit it in memory; it means living in this house that is gone, the way we used to dream in it.”

I have been waiting for years to read this little book. Finally, after acknowledging that my public library was probably never going to st
David M
...the world is not so much a noun as an adjective

One might even go further and say an adverb.

Nothing in this book made much sense, but then it was a whimsical, rather than pedantic, kind of nonsense.
Sep 06, 2009 is currently reading it
So far, the major insight seems to be that in so far as we grow up in similar environments, we will have similar internal landscapes--and thus be susceptible to similar images. Ah. Well, it's nice to have a theory about the efficacy of poetic images, and it's a convincing theory.
But Bachelard's further investigation is proving a bit difficult for me. It's very very French, full of "we" and assumptions, and I find myself protesting at all this business about cellars and attics and how hurricanes
May 28, 2008 rated it liked it
I've never really decided how I really feel about this text. Part of me knows it's total bullshit but another part of me wants to believe in it and enjoy the ridiculous, quasi-academic frenchitude. Maybe they're not mutually exclusive ;) ...more
I do absolutely love this book, and it became in many ways a kind of manifesto for me. The reason I haven't given it the full 5 stars is simply that a good third of the writing remains essentially meaningless to me, even after a dozen rereadings. The things that work are SO wonderful, but I still can't make head or tail of phenomenology in general and plenty of this book in particular. What is marvelous about it, though, is that you don't need to understand most of it to get a great deal of plea ...more
Josh Friedlander
Mar 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, philosophy, pomo
Bachelard was something of a polymath who began his career as a postman, taught himself physics and chemistry, and then became a philosophy professor at the Sorbonne. His thinking is suitably eclectic. Quite simply, this book purports to be a work of philosophy (apparently one of phenomenology, though its metaphysics owe a far greater debt to Bergson than to Husserl or Brentano), but is best described as a meditation on poetry, and the connection between language and private spaces.

The influenc
Jun 05, 2008 added it
Shelves: theeeeeeory
I'd read parts before, and had a somewhat more negative opinion. Despite the many, many assumptions that Bachelard goes into the book with, it remains valuable. First off, he spatializes Bergsonian ideas, which helps to organize a spatial narrative. Second, he unifies philosophy and poetics, yielding a dual method that proves more effective than either individually. If you choose to read the book as a subjective experience rather than as a comprehensive, philosophical work, than it turns out to ...more
Edel Malene
Kjempesøt og fin og glup bok!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:) litt vanskelig for meg til tider men det gikk bra!!!!:)

"And all the spaces of our past moments of solitude, the spaces in which we have suffered from solitude, enjoyed, desired, and compromised solitude, remain indelible within us and precisely because the human being wants them to remain so. He knows instinctively that this space identified with his solitude is creative; that even when it is forever expunged from the present, when, henceforth, it i
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating foray into the spatial quality of the human imagination. Renowned French philosopher abandons strictly critical thought in order to pursue a phenomenology of the intimate spaces we live in. This is accomplished mainly through examples from poetry, the corpus consisting primarily of French poets I have never read before. A sense of joy exudes from the text, as Bachelard examines cellars and attics (ch 1–2), drawers, chests and wardrobes (ch 3), nests (ch 4), shells (ch 5), corners ( ...more
Nov 18, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art, non-fiction
I thought this was an interesting book which started off well but I sort of lost interest in it near the end. Certainly worth a read as it’s not a massive book at all. The book is about space and the philosophy of it. As the book notes some of our fondest memories as with all things are placed in a physical space. If you feel nostalgic and think back to your days of youth there will often be a physical location or space that you associate with that memory. The books had chapters such as: the hou ...more
Ben Hewer
I dont know why i kept reading this. I never want to see the word phenomenology again.
To dream about space, is to read this book. My love for phenomenology started here.

At the level of the poetic image, the duality of subject and object is iridescent, shimmering, unceasingly active in its inversions. In this domain of the creation of the poetic image by the poet, phenomenology, if one dare to say so, is a microscopic phenomenology. ... The image, in its simplicity, has no need of scholarship. It is the property of a naïve consciousness; in its expression, it is youthful language
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"A phenomenologist...takes the image just as is, just as the poet created it, and tries to make it his own, to feed on this rare fruit. He brings the image to the very limit of what he is able to imagine. However far from being a poet he may be, he tries to repeat its creation for himself and, if possible, continue its exaggeration."

This book should be taken and appreciated and feasted on in a similar fashion.
Peter Aronson
This book, despite its popularity with architects, is just what it says on the label: it is about the experience of poetic images of place. It is also a very French book, and not just all of France even, as it doesn't really deal with the sea or the coast, but rather with the plain and forest and the city. Its poets are almost all French, and its images are the same. I live in the American Southwest, and images of basements and attics and forests don't speak to my home. Bachelard does mention th ...more
Sumirti Singaravel
Some books are meditations which burst with life and hope, making us feel and understand the beauty in the everyday mundaneness. This book is one such. Grateful.
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Gaston Bachelard was a French philosopher who rose to some of the most prestigious positions in the French academy. His most important work is on poetics and on the philosophy of science. To the latter he introduced the concepts of epistemological obstacle and epistemological break (obstacle épistémologique et rupture épistémologique). He influenced many subsequent French philosophers, among them ...more

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