The Psychoanalysis of Fire was published by in 1938, before Water and Dreams: An Essay on the Imagination of Matter (1940), Air and Dreams: An Essay on the Imagination of Movement (1942), and Earth and Reveries of Will (1945). This essay was part of an effort that reconnected research on pre-Socratic philosophy with the question of the fundamental constituents of the world, the "elements."
Bachelard was both a theoretician of modern science (The New Scientific Spirit, ; Le Rationalisme appliquée, ) and a philosopher of poetics, in the sense that while demonstrating the need for systematization associated with all rational thought, he insisted on the collapse of any system in the face of the infinite richness of experience. He also attempted to circumscribe existence with a profound imagination imbued with poetic experience that transcends the individual imagination of the subject.
For Bachelard the phenomenon of fire is situated at this crossroads of science and poetry. In his preface, he writes, "I am going to examine a problem in which objectivity has never held sway, where the initial seduction is so compelling that it deforms the most rational minds and leads them to the cradle of poetry, where daydreams replace thought, where poems hide theorems. This is the psychological problem presented by our convictions about fire. The problem is so directly psychological that I have no hesitation in speaking of a 'psychoanalysis of fire."'