Anti-Bergson: Bachelard’s “Surrationalist” Moment and The Poetics of Time

Event Summary

A public talk given by Elie During (University of Paris Ouest – Nanterre) on the 60th anniversary of the philosopher Gaston Bachelard’s death.

On the face of it, The Dialectic of Duration, Gaston Bachelard’s 1936 essay, is a pungent—if often unfair—criticism of the Bergsonian doctrine of time and creative evolution. The constructive side of this Anti-Bergson has received less attention: it implies a genuine poetics of time based on the intuition of the sporadic and oscillatory nature of becoming. Bachelard’s rhythmic theme is consistent with the idea of “surrationalism” introduced that same year as a formal counterpart to the surrealist experiments carried out on the fringes of conscious experience. Inspired by the explosive potential of scientific revolutions already celebrated in Le Nouvel Esprit Scientifique, the surrationalist project can be interpreted as that of a poetics of reason. André Breton believed it would “act simultaneously as a stimulant and restraining influence” (“Crisis of the Object”). Insights from the scientific investigation of time as well as poetic and musical experience will help us see how this double action is in keeping with the eruptive dynamics of imagination and reason, as much as with Bachelard’s ideal of “self-surveillance.” Read more…