The Banal and Sublime Politics of the Everyday

By Tom Jacobs.

Published by The International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: March 14, 2014 $US5.00

Reading the fiction of Nicholson Baker and Walker Percy through the prisms of Kierkegaard and Henri Lefebvre, this paper explores the ways these writers seek to find pleasure, poetry, and insight in the most mundane circumstances. Assuming that the everyday is a legitimate object of philosophical inquiry and reflection, I argue that these writers’ works inhabit a contradiction between the desire to transform the way we perceive everyday life and the desire to transform the character of everyday life itself. With their ability to find poetry in this most unremarkable of moments (moments most writers skip over in order to get to something more epically or emotionally significant), the protagonists in these works oscillate between wanting to escape and embrace everydayness. This is precisely the problem that Kierkegaard and Lefebvre (amongst others) grapple with—to live a life of infinite resignation and to pursue the fundamental mystery and absurdity that is so ubiquitous as to be almost invisible, or to leverage what Lefebvre calls “moments of presence,” which are “those instants that we would each, according to our own personal criteria, categorize as ‘authentic’ moments that break through the dulling monotony of the ‘taken for granted’” as a way of opening up and changing everydayness into something more liberating. If our being is profoundly tied to the types of practice that generate the space and time we inhabit, these writers and theorists suggest that politics also hinges on the ways we create cultural time and space—the world we walk through everyday without much thinking about it

Keywords: Everyday Life, Cultural Politics, Literature, Political Theory

The International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies, Volume 11, Issue 2, March 2014, pp.1-11. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: March 14, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 409.816KB)).

Dr. Tom Jacobs

Assistant Professor, English, New York Institute of Technology, Brooklyn, NY, USA

Tom Jacobs, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of English at the New York Institute of Technology-Old Wesbury campus. He received his B.A. from Carleton College and his Ph.D. from New York University. Tom has published work on the post-Depression phototext and on the museum cultures of early New York City. He is currently at work on a book length manuscript on how U.S. writers of the 20th and 21st century use material and visual culture to explore the ways that unexpected encounters with particularly evocative objects and images can reorganize one’s sense of self, the past, and social relationships.