- William GalperinWilliam GalperinRutgers University Department of English
The central issue surrounding the “everyday” in relation to literature and to literary study is etymological: a distinction between the “everyday,” a Romantic-period neologism that names both a site of interest and a representational alternative to both the probable and the fantastic; and “everydayness,” a mid-19th-century coinage, reflecting developments particular to urbanization, industrialization, and the rise of capital. This distinction has largely vanished, reflecting the influence of social science, and theory on the humanities and the flight in general from phenomenology. Nevertheless, as the first discourse actually to register the uncanniness of the everyday, literature provides an approach to everyday life that is not only in contrast to the limitations and routines linked to everydayness but also a reminder of possibilities and enchantments that are always close at hand. Although Maurice Blanchot’s axiom that “the everyday is never what we see a first time, but only see again” is as applicable to “everyday life studies” as it is to literature and to related theories of perception, there are fundamental differences. From the perspective of the human sciences and social theory, this discovery is recursive: “the everyday” proceeds from something that “escapes”—which, like ideology, is never quite seen—to something suddenly visible or seen again but with no alteration apart from being retrieved and corralled as a condition of being understood and in many cases lamented. In literature, the escape is ongoing. A parallel world of which we are unaware, or unmindful, becomes visible as if for the first time, but as a condition of remaining missable and always discoverable.