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The Crystal as Shell: Crystal Poetics in Medieval Texts —'Reverberations' and 'Iridescence' in Bachelard's Poetic Image

Date and Time: 
Friday, November 18, 2016. 04:00 PM - 06:00 PM
Meeting Location: 
Stanford Humanities Center Board Room
Workshop: 
The Material Imagination: Sound, Space, and Human Consciousness
Meeting Description: 

About the presenter: Marisa Galvez is Associate Professor of French and German at Stanford. She specializes in the literature of the Middle Ages in France and Western Europe, especially the poetry and narrative literature written in Occitan and Old French. Her areas of interest include the troubadours, vernacular poetics, the intersection of performance and literary cultures, and the critical history of medieval studies as a discipline.

I will frame Gaston Bachelard’s concept of a ’shell as crystal’ with his discussion of material imagination and the poetic image. In his phenomenological determination of the poetic image, he describes two qualities of the experience of the image, its aspect as in formation as we inhabit it, its ‘happening’ through perception: 
 —Sound: The “reverberation” of an image and how it has a “sonority of being”. Bachelard uses an auditive metaphor borrowed from Minkowski to describe the phenomenology of space. An image is a feeling of participation expressed in both time and space. How can an image reveberate in the same way sound does? How does it engage the reader in a participatory manner? 
 —Light: Bachelard describes the poetic image as an ‘event’ that acts on the individual consciousness, a ‘transsubjectivity’ that as a ‘duality of subject and object is iridescent, shimmering, unceasingly active in its inversions.’ I’ll reflect upon how crystals in medieval texts relate to shells as a ‘poetic image of space’ and describe a material experience of transsubjectivity. Crystals may somehow reenact a love experience as poetic image, or as in the case of fountains in the Latin East, the crystalline water creates a synesthetic experience that unites the sensual and divine through sound, light, and touch.

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