Daniil Aronson: Political Imagination and the Imagery of the Liquid in Some Russian Revolutionary Poetry. 11.12.2018

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Daniil Aronsons lecture at the KuvA Research Days 2018. According to Kant, one could only think objects through spatial analogies. For him, imagination as such was spatialization, and the former was the very precondition of thinking. Whether or not this idea was metaphysically or psychologically viable, it turned out quite an accurate depiction of the way the self-representation of the nation-state worked. The nation-state could only exist insofar as it represented itself as a delimited spatial unity. In this sense, contrary to Kant’s own claim, his theory pertained not to the faculty of imagination in general, but only to the imagination of the modern nation-state. Historically, different political entities, such as church or empire, relied far less on spatial images in their self-representation. One can see this in the relatively big role that their iconography allotted to various water-related images, which exemplify what I call ‘the imagery of the liquid’. What is characteristic of the imagery of the liquid is that it tends to loosen the tie between imagination and spatiality. In its most intensified forms, such as those found in the revolutionary pieces by the Russian Modernist poet Sergei Yesenin, the imagery of the liquid renders spatiality not just subordinate but right away pernicious. The paper will discuss the possibility of the utterly un-Kantian non-spatial imagination, implied by such radical use of the imagery of the liquid.