Why Miniatures? Part 2 – The Poetics of Space


“But the causality of smallness stirs all our senses…”


Why Miniatures part 1, can be viewed as an image based blog post here, or a text based website page here.

Why are we so fascinated with miniatures? What makes miniatures useful in artistic work? In this ‘Why Miniatures’ series, we explore these ideas through quotes from various articles and books. Today, we look at The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard, Published in 1958.

Chapter 7: Miniature

In this chapter, the only one I will discuss here, Bachelard is musing over the literary/fairytale ‘miniature. In this he means a poetic narrative that describes a miniscule space or object. However, with his analogies I argue all visual art is miniature as it is a ‘cropped’ version of the world.

  • “…the tiny things we imagine simply take us back to childhood, to familiarity with toys and the reality of the toys…But the imagination deserves better than that. In point of fact, imagination in miniature is natural imagination which appears at all ages in the day dreams of born dreamers. Indeed the element of amusement must be removed, if we are to find true psychological roots.”
  • “Representation becomes nothing but a body of expressions with which to communicate our own images to others.”
  • “The cleverer I am at miniaturizing the world, the better I possess it. But in doing this, it must be understood that values become condensed and enriched in miniature.”
  • “But he entered into a miniature world and right away images began to abound, then grow, then escape.”
  • “The botanist’s magnifying glass is youth recaptured.”
  • “…the miniscule, a narrow gate, opens up an entire world. The details of a thing can be the sign of a new world which, like all worlds, contains the attributes of greatness.
  • “Is there any reason, either, why these ‘extreme’ images, which we should be unable to form ourselves, but which readers can receive sinccerely from poets, should not be virtual ‘drugs’…”
  • “Also one must love space to descibe it as minutely…”
  • “… I feel more at home in miniature worlds, which for me, are dominated worlds…Here the imagination is both vigilant and content.”
  • “A bit of moss may well be a pine, but a pine will never be a bit of moss.”
  • “He lay down behind the blade of grass to englarge the sky.” – Noel Bureau
  • “Distance, too, creates miniatures at all points on the horizon, and the dreamer faced with these spectacles of distant nature, picks out these miniatures as so many nests of solitude in which he dreams of living.”
  • “I plunge into the tiny dimensions that distance confers, for I am anxious to measure the immobility in whihc I am confined with the reduction.” – Joe Bousquet
  • “Everything is small because he is so high. And since he is high, he is great, the height of his situation is proof of his own greatness.”
  • “But the causality of smallness stirs all our senses…”


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6 thoughts on “Why Miniatures? Part 2 – The Poetics of Space

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  1. The book – the chapter really – is still waiting to be read. So thanks very much for sharing these quotes; now I know it is worth reading (I never quite got far into the book; it seemed a bit esoteric to me though Bachelard claims to be a phenomenologist). I’ll give it another chance.

    1. I did attempt to read the book as a whole, and then decided to narrow in to this chapter. It’s all a bit much. But some of the material in this chapter is very beautiful and well worth the read. I plan to focus in on On Longing by Susan Stewart as well. That is, if I can get through it before it’s due back to the library.

      Thanks for your comment, and I hope you enjoy reading The Poetics of Space, when you do go back to it.

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