Freeside Europe Online Academic Journal

Freeside Europe Online Academic Journal

Modern cultural, literary and linguistic perspectives

Péter Tamás: “Phony” and “Poshlost”: The Ordinary as Moral Concept in Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita and J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye


DOI 10.51313/Freeside-2021-8

According to philosopher Stanley Cavell, “what philosophy is dissatisfied with is inherently the everyday” (1988: 171). The everyday is also an ambiguous but central concept in Nabokov’s and Salinger’s most famous novels. Their narrators mock and criticize the vulgarity of whatever they associate with everyday life – clichés, stock ideas, routines. This seemingly harmless mindset has serious ethical consequences: Holden and Humbert start associating the concept of the everyday with moral depravity. They become blind to the redeemable qualities of the ordinary, which leads them to consider the Other merely as a product of clichés. Both Nabokov and Salinger imply that one cannot acknowledge the alterity of the Other without making peace with ordinariness of everyday life. However, there is an important difference between the two novels: while Salinger sets out to depict how the everyday can be reclaimed and the Other acknowledged, Lolita employs a narrator who never manages to re-evaluate his approach to the ordinary.

Download the article in PDF
ISSN 1786-7967

8000 Székesfehérvár, Rákóczi u. 25. Hungary