The tactile experience plays a major role in Paul Valéry's work. In Valéry's view, touch, or tactility takes part in the aesthetic experience not only at the immediate level, as an actual sensation, but also at the imaginary level, as a virtual experience which shapes human perception and consciousness. The very movement of the hand and the body, and its interaction with objects, endow the creative action with contingency and unpredictability. This notion of tactility is used by Valéry to emphasize the fragmented and discontinuous nature of the creative process, which eludes prior models and intentions. Most originally, Valéry frames touch as endowing matter with a certain temporal sequence or rhythm, rhythm which then proceeds to "infect" the recipients of the work. The article draws on late 19th and early 20th century discourse on tactility and temporality, in the domains of poetics, science, and technology, in order to contextualize Valéry's ideas and to stress their synthetic value and their originality. Special attention is given to Valéry's essay on Degas, as a piece which showcases this notion of tactility, both at the explicit level, in Valéry's analysis of Degas' work and method, and at the formal level, as a way to participate and pursue the painter's immanent rhythm.


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pp. 33-51
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