“The bread of life is better than any soufflé”
Wallace Stevens’s Poetics and the Extraordinary Ordinary
Pages 259 - 278
This essay begins with asking why the ‘studies of the everyday’—currently so popular in the humanities—have not yet taken pragmatism into consideration despite the fact that pragmatism has traditionally been concerned with the everyday, the common, and the ordinary. It then analyzes Wallace Stevens’s everyday poetics as part of the pragmatist tradition, especially as inspired by William James and John Dewey. This perspective helps to see the paradoxical doubleness involved when the ordinary is observed consciously and thus ceases to be ordinary, as it is turned into something extraordinary. Furthermore, it uncovers Stevens’s treatment of the ordinary as an expression of his political belief. Through this belief Stevens not only emphasizes democratic impulses but also the importance of becoming a part of an egalitarian collectivity.