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Donatella Mazzoleni » 10.Structures of the Imaginary


Developments in this lesson

In this lesson you will be given references and tools to help establish criteria for ordering things and improve your analogic thought.

We will put together a system of cultural references covering the great theorists of the imagination from the last century (C.G.Jung, G.Bachelard, G.Durand, J.J.Wunenburger).

We will summarise G. Durand’s anthropological-philosophical vision and his “science of the imagination”.

Following on from G. Durand, we will gradually compile a kind of universal map of images which could act as a kind of compass, orienting our studies as we complete our nomadic research.

Extraordinary contemporary phenomena have led to massive cultural change in the form of globalization. At the end of this lesson we will demonstrate how important, useful and up-to-date a tool anthropology of the imagination is for analysing and interpreting these phenomena, looking in particular at a work by J.J. Wunenburger on television and its imagination.

Theorists of the imagination: Carl Gustav Jung

Carl Gustav Jung (Kesswil 1875 – Küsnacht 1961)

Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst.
Initially (1906) close to Sigmund Freud, but distanced himself in 1912-13, establishing a new school of thought (“Analytical psychology”) in which psychoanalysis is no longer seen as simply a therapy but as a way of developing and expressing the inner self or soul throughout a person’s life (“process of individualization”).

For Jung, the unconscious (those impulses and processes of the mind which are not consciously perceived by the individual) is formed not only through actual, forgotten or ignored personal experience but also has an innate component which is inherited. The individual unconscious forms part of a collective unconscious, an indeterminate and immutable collection of “primordial images” (archetypes) which are the original, universal source that feed the imagination and which can be explored through studying myths, the great “collective dreams” of all humanity.

Essential reading:

C.G. Jung and after his death M.L. von Franz (edited by) Man and his symbols (1964), Italian version L’uomo e i suoi simboli, 1967, 2009

 

Carl Gustav Jung (Kesswil 1875 – Küsnacht 1961). Source: Uncyclopedia

Carl Gustav Jung (Kesswil 1875 – Küsnacht 1961). Source: Uncyclopedia


Theorists of the imagination: Gaston Bachelard

Gaston Bachelard (Bar-sur-Aube 1884 – Paris 1962)
French philosopher, philosopher of science and poetry.
Employed by the  postal services, he studied mathematics and engineering. After the war (1919) he taught science and philosophy. He was particularly interested in the study of the imagination in contact with nature and the elements. Theorist of «psychanalyse de la connaissance objective», inspired by Carl Gustav Jung’s analytical psychology: a study on the affective obstacles present in the mental universe of a scientist which prevent him/her from really understanding phenomena.  Theorist of rêverie as a learning process in opposition to that of science which enables people to explore and develop their imagination.

Essential reading:
La psychanalyse du Feu (1938), Italian text La psicanalisi del fuoco, Dedalo, Bari
L’Eau et les rêves (1942), Italian text Psicanalisi delle acque, RED, Como, 1992, 2006
L’Air et les songes (1943), Italian text Psicanalisi dell’aria, RED, Como, 1992, 2007
La Terre et les rêveries du repos (1946), Italian text La terra e il riposo, RED, Como, 2007
La Terre et les rêveries de la volonté (1948), Italian text La terra e le forze, RED, Como, 1989
La Poétique de l’espace (1957), Italian text La poetica dello spazio, Dedalo, Bari 1975
La Poétique de la rêverie (1960), Italian text La poetica della rêverie, Dedalo, Bari 1984

Gaston Bachelard (Bar-sur-Aube 1884 – Paris 1962). Source: Oneiricworld

Gaston Bachelard (Bar-sur-Aube 1884 - Paris 1962). Source: Oneiricworld


Theorists of the imagination: Gilbert Durand

Gilbert Durand (Savoia, 1921)

French philosopher, anthropologist and sociologist.
Follows on from the work of Gaston Bachelard and Carl Gustav Jung, but also Lévi-Strauss, Greimas, Cassirer, Chomsky. Professor of Cultural Anthropology and Sociology of Culture at the University of Grenoble and Chambéry.  Founder of “Centre for Research into the Imaginary” at Chambery (1966). Theorist of “figurative structuralism” (research into structural constants in historic-social phenomena) and of  ”mythanalysis” (clarification of deep anthropological meaning behind the set of myths our culture produces),  he tried to establish “science of the imagination” as a proper science.

Essential reading:

Les structures anthropologiques de l’imaginaire (1963), i.t. Le strutture antropologiche dell’immaginario. Introduzione all’archetipologia generale, Dedalo, Bari 1972, 2007
L’imagination symbolique (1964), i.t. L’immaginazione simbolica, il Pensiero Scientifico, Roma 1977
Figures mythiques et visages de l’œuvre. De la mythocritique à la mythanalyse (1979)

Gilbert Durand (Savoia, 1921). Source:  International Association for Analytical Psychology

Gilbert Durand (Savoia, 1921). Source: International Association for Analytical Psychology


Theorists of the imagination: J.Jacques Wunenburger

Jean-Jacques Wunenburger (1946)

French philosopher.
One of Gilbert Durand’s students. Director of Gaston Bachelard Centre in Dijon. Teaches philosophy at Jean Moulin University in Lyon.

His philosophical-anthropological work focuses on the physiognomy and role of images, symbols and myths in their relationship with philosophical, scientific, political and cultural rationalism.

Essential reading:

L’imaginaire (2003), i.t. L’immaginario, Il Melangolo, Genova 2008

Jean-Jacques Wunenburger (1946). Source: Chaire UNESCO

Jean-Jacques Wunenburger (1946). Source: Chaire UNESCO


Gilbert Durand’s theory of the imaginary

In his work Les structures anthropologiques de l’imaginaire (1963), Gilbert Durand’s original intention is to create a universal repertory of all the different kinds of images to be found within humanity’s great cultural heritage (a sort of “garden of images” using Linneo’s botanical system of classification) but he actually constructs a theory of the imaginary which aims to encompass all forms of conscious human production.

The work is divided into the following chapters:

Book one: Images and their daytime regime

first part: The changes of time
second part: The sword and the sceptre

Book two: Images and their nocturnal regime

first part: the descent and the cup
second part: from money to the stick

It is a very complex book which is difficult to read because of the specialist use of many theoretical and philosophical terms that the author sometimes seems to invent using word roots from ancient Greek. It does, however, provide us with an endless source of examples of the way analogic thought can be used and gives lots of suggestions both theoretical and imaginary.

We will try to provide a brief summary of it for you.

Gilbert Durand’s theory of the imaginary

Constructing a “science of images” according to Gilbert Durand involves the following:

  • Images are produced along an anthropological route which starts at the neuro-biological level and extends as far as the cultural.

 

  • Images gather along this anthropological route in small groups, and their division is on the basis of structural analogy

 

  • Three great constellations of the imaginary thus emerge thanks to structural analogy (constellations or archetypes which “distinguish”, “confound” or “unite”) and two regimes for the imaginary (the daily and the nocturnal round).

 

  • If we follow this anthropological route and the analogic constellation we can arrive at a universal isotopic classification of images.

Gilbert Durand’s theory of the imaginary

The “anthropological route” that Gilbert Durand devised is a speculative sequence that crosses a vast conceptual constellation and establishes analogic relations between material and immaterial human activity.

The conceptual constellation that G. Durand’s thinking covers draws on various disciplines and can be represented, as a first draft, like a group of “clouds” of concepts floating at different heights and levels between the physical world (red background) and the world of the psyche (blue background).

As we  go through each of the stages in the construction of a conceptual constellation in more depth, the group of “clouds” will gradually resolve itself into a diagram which represents Durand’s isotopic classification of images: together we will thus construct a kind of universal map of the human imaginary.

 

Group of “clouds” of concepts floating at different heights and levels between the physical world (red background) and the world of the psyche (blue background). Graphics by Donatella Mazzoleni.

Group of “clouds” of concepts floating at different heights and levels between the physical world (red background) and the world of the psyche (blue background). Graphics by Donatella Mazzoleni.


Gilbert Durand’s theory of the imaginary

Anthropological route: starting point (subject area: Reflexology).

The formation of images is rooted in our neuro-biological infrastructure, which is made up of three primary reflexology systems. Each one of these involves a part of the sensory system and constitutes a “dominant” characteristic in the development of interaction with our environment.

The three primary reflexology systems (with their respective sensory apparatus and the dominant behaviour generated as a result) are:

  • postural reflexes, which control the vertical position
    Sensory apparatus: sight, hearing, phonation
    dominant in POSITION
  • digestive reflexes, which control nutrition
    Sensory apparatus: touch, smell, taste
    dominant in SWALLOWING
  • rhythmic reflexes, governing reproduction
    Sensory apparatus: suction, sex
    dominant in COPULATION

Gilbert Durand’s theory of the imaginary

Gilbert Durand’s theory of the imaginary. First stage of anthropological route: from reflexology to technology. Graphics by Donatella Mazzoleni.

Gilbert Durand's theory of the imaginary. First stage of anthropological route: from reflexology to technology. Graphics by Donatella Mazzoleni.


Gilbert Durand’s theory of the imaginary

Gilbert Durand’s theory of the imaginary. Second stage of anthropological route: from technology to philosophy. Graphics by Donatella Mazzoleni.

Gilbert Durand's theory of the imaginary. Second stage of anthropological route: from technology to philosophy. Graphics by Donatella Mazzoleni.


Gilbert Durand’s theory of the imaginary

Gilbert Durand’s theory of the imaginary. Third stage of anthropological route: from philosophy to iconology. Graphics by Donatella Mazzoleni.

Gilbert Durand's theory of the imaginary. Third stage of anthropological route: from philosophy to iconology. Graphics by Donatella Mazzoleni.


Gilbert Durand’s theory of the imaginary

 
Gilbert Durand’s theory of the imaginary. The end of the anthropological route: from iconology to semiology. Graphics by Donatella Mazzoleni.

Gilbert Durand's theory of the imaginary. The end of the anthropological route: from iconology to semiology. Graphics by Donatella Mazzoleni.


Gilbert Durand’s theory of the imaginary

Gilbert Durand’s theory of the imaginary. Graphics by Donatella Mazzoleni.

Gilbert Durand's theory of the imaginary. Graphics by Donatella Mazzoleni.


Gilbert Durand’s universal map of the imaginary

Representation of an isotopic classification of images (Universal map of the Imaginary) based on Gilbert Durand’s theories – © Donatella Mazzoleni. Copy of original manuscript belonging to Donatella Mazzoleni, preserved and restored by Ivan Paolozza, student from 1981-1982.

Representation of an isotopic classification of images (Universal map of the Imaginary) based on Gilbert Durand's theories - © Donatella Mazzoleni. Copy of original manuscript belonging to Donatella Mazzoleni, preserved and restored by Ivan Paolozza, student from 1981-1982.


Gilbert Durand’s Universal map of the imaginary

Representation of an isotopic classification of images (Universal map of the Imaginary) based on Gilbert Durand’s theory – © Donatella Mazzoleni.

Representation of an isotopic classification of images (Universal map of the Imaginary) based on Gilbert Durand's theory - © Donatella Mazzoleni.


An example of its application: analysis of television

Anthropology of the imaginary is an extremely useful, important and modern tool for analyzing and interpreting the meaning of the extraordinary phenomena in today’s world which are causing such massive cultural change in the form of globalization. We will get a taste of this by looking at a quotation about television and the imaginary by J.J. Wunenburger.

«The television (…) represents, in the heart of the domestic space, a place of intimacy and rest synonymous with suspending work and, at the same time, an open space that connects with the outside world (…). In mythological terms (…) it is a kind of incarnation combining Hestia, the goddess of the home and Hermes, the god of contacts, communication and exchange (…). A major factor in the globalization of customs, the television encourages (…) an almost ritualistic set of standard behaviours (…) profoundly archaic human behaviours which can be traced back to sacred imagery (…). The framed screen in our houses is similar to the altar with its image of the god-figure behind it (…). The television aerial (…) which has left its mark on the landscape, recalls the mythical function of the axis mundi, the point where heaven and earth came into contact, permitting movement between the two areas, and enabling the supernatural forces and energy to be harnessed (…). Switching on the television is like the rite of lighting the holy candle (…). Our eyes and ears are in a passive, receptive state (…). There is no longer any need to believe in anything beyond what is represented because the representation is a perfect simulacrum of what is present».

Da Jean-Jacques Wunenburger L’imaginaire (2003), t.i. L’immaginario, Il Melangolo, Genova 2008

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Progetto "Campus Virtuale" dell'Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, realizzato con il cofinanziamento dell'Unione europea. Asse V - Società dell'informazione - Obiettivo Operativo 5.1 e-Government ed e-Inclusion