Jonathan Greenberg

Jonathan Greenberg is Professor of English at Montclair State University and the author, most recently, of The Cambridge Introduction to Satire and, with Mo Rocca, Mobituaries, forthcoming in November, 2019 from Simon and Schuster.


A Lobster Is Being Eaten

For Wallace Stevens, the lobster is a symbol of the high life. In Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction Stevens presents its consumption as a luxurious pleasure:

We drank Meursault, ate lobster Bombay with mango
Chutney. Then the Canon Aspirin declaimed
Of his sister [2]

The Canon Aspirin is, as Stevens wrote to Hi Simons, a figure for “[t]he sophisticated man,” “a man with a taste for Meursault, and lobster Bombay,” and his connoisseurship in gustatory matters possesses obvious affinities to the aesthetic satisfactions offered by Stevens’s own lush, Francophonic language.[3] One may or may not accede to Harold Bloom’s proposition that the mango is “visionary food for Stevens, perhaps his equivalent of Coleridge’s ‘honey-dew,’” but the lobster, served up in an Anglo-Indian recipe, accompanied by good French wine, surely signifies a cultivated, if orientalist, taste for recherché pleasures, what we might call the Canon’s culinary capital.[4] Of the lobster we can say what Stevens says of the poem: It Must Give Pleasure.