Claustrophilia and Exalted Imagination: Fictional Responses to a Pascalian Problem in the Works of Xavier de Maistre and Jan Potocki
This article explores the topics of confinement and claustrophilia in Xavier de Maistre’s Voyage autour de ma chambre (1795) and Expédition nocturne autour de ma chambre (1825), and in Jan Potocki’s Manuscrit trouvé à Saragosse (1791–1814). These works resonate with ideas put forward by Blaise Pascal in the Pensées, more precisely with the reflections on man’s need for constant diversion, represented though the image of his incapacity to stay alone in a room. The fictions of de Maistre and Potocki have in common that they stage literary prison scenes where the characters experience confinement as stimulating for their creativity, giving way to a specific freedom of the imagination. The article argues further that, if the claustrophilia advocated by de Maistre and Potocki appears as responses to the problem of man’s restlessness as examined by Pascal, these responses depend on a Rousseauist understanding of the notion of exalted imagination.