Styles of Life, Poéthique, and Irony in Charles Baudelaire

Jean-Claude Pinson’s notion of la poéthique seeks to rearticulate ways in which poetry can be seen as a style of life. This essay calls on the writings of Charles Baudelaire as a test case for the possibility of building an ethics or even a politics of human solidarity on the basis of irony. While some may point to the stylized life of the dandy entrenched in a world of art for art’s sake, and others may indicate the deliberately apolitical or even reactionary nature of some of his texts, I argue that Baudelaire is an inaugural figure for the rethinking of the relationship between poetry and style of life that emerges most fully in the contemporary theory of our own time. Baudelaire suggests ways to bridge the ethical and the political by embracing, rather than refusing, the irony on which Richard Rorty claims one can build only a private mode of living.