The Flâneur exposed
October 25, 2006 4:38 PM   Subscribe

'The Flâneur': What fascinating titbits can you add to my knowledge about this concept? Art, history, philosophy and literary theory links all welcome.

Walter Benjamin wrote on them; Edgar Allan Poe supposedly utilized the concept in his story 'The Man of the Crowd'; the 19th century Parisians relished them. Art, literary theory, have been altered irrevocably since.

Insights please!

posted by 0bvious to Society & Culture (22 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Interesting concept. I'd not heard of this before.

Wikipedia pointed me to this link-heavy site that may be of interest to you. They also point to official website of La Société des Flâneurs Sans Frontières (Liverpool chapter).

Thanks for helping provide my evening reading for the night!
posted by Ufez Jones at 5:00 PM on October 25, 2006

The contemporary flaneur might well refer to himself as a psychogeographer.
posted by jack_mo at 5:11 PM on October 25, 2006

Response by poster: Yeah, it's not a concept I had come across until recently. Not much out there on it either...

I willbe writing a piece on it in the next few days, just looking for something juicy. Thanks for the interest though. Let me know if you discover anything which delights.
posted by 0bvious at 5:20 PM on October 25, 2006

I don't know if he fits exactly, but Speed Levitch might be an interesting connection for you. Professional weirdo, gives (or gave) erudite idiosyncratic walking tours of NYC. There's a documentrary about him called "The Cruise" which is very entertaining.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:37 PM on October 25, 2006

A bit of super-local trivia: In front of the Lycee Francais La Perouse San Francisco on Ashbury Street someone etched in the sidewalk "Be a Flâneur".

Not terribly helpful, but I always thought it was cool that some high school student out there once felt compelled to write that and not SKOOL SUX!! or whatever.
posted by Boydrop at 5:38 PM on October 25, 2006

Julian Barnes' novel Metroland dances around this topic.
posted by dhruva at 5:46 PM on October 25, 2006

Best answer: This book seems to be a good study of the phenomenon:
posted by gregb1007 at 5:47 PM on October 25, 2006

I assume you've seen Edmund White's book called The Flaneur.
posted by OmieWise at 6:05 PM on October 25, 2006

I associate the concept of the flâneur with Baudelaire.
posted by jayder at 6:07 PM on October 25, 2006

Jayder has it.
posted by Wolof at 6:25 PM on October 25, 2006

Hmm, I have read several Julien Barnes novels but not Metroland. At least from the description, it sounds more interesting than the ones I read.
posted by jayder at 7:15 PM on October 25, 2006

Actually, Wolof, OmieWise has it. Edmund White's book is a brief examination of the history of the idea, including a study of Baudelaire and a reminiscence of White's own time wandering Paris streets. It's interesting and solid. If 0bvious is writing on the topic, it's probably best to begin with White, especially if—as it sounds—the piece is a magazine popularization.
posted by cgc373 at 7:24 PM on October 25, 2006

Response by poster: I am doing a presentation on The Flaneur in relation to inspiration for writers. That is, through the concepts of flanerie one may enhance one's perception, sense of self and place: all good fodder for the writer's notebook.

Thanks very much for the ideas so far. I am planning to hit the streets of London sometime this weekend, strap a camera to my shoulder/front and free associate with the city streets. Let my eyes dictate the content of my thoughts and the camera capture the two in juxtaposition.

Anything else I could do which woul inspire a group of budding writers?
posted by 0bvious at 7:41 PM on October 25, 2006

Best answer: Read this and also this.
posted by nasreddin at 9:28 PM on October 25, 2006

Benjamin's discussions of Baudelaire's flaneur are fun. They are, of course, in his Arcades Project, but you can also find lots of quotes and analysis of it (from an architectural perspective) in Gilloch's Myth and Metropolis.
posted by jmgorman at 9:44 PM on October 25, 2006

Best answer: The Nonist has a bunch of links as well in this post.
posted by dhruva at 11:12 PM on October 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

Check out Iain Sinclair's work, especially about London (London Orbital, Lights Out for the Territory). Also pick up a copy of Smoke, a London-ish city wandering magazine, and London Walking, a little book by Simon Pope.
posted by deaddodo at 2:05 AM on October 26, 2006

Response by poster: Nonist to the rescue!

I love Jaime
posted by 0bvious at 4:05 AM on October 26, 2006

I associate the concept of the flâneur with Baudelaire.

In The Penultimate Peril, Lemony Snicket has the Baudelaire orphans posing as flaneurs.
posted by blueshammer at 6:09 AM on October 26, 2006

Actually, blueshammer, they're posing as concierge. They're undercover flaneurs.

I'm certain their last name is no coincidence.
Obvious, maybe you can use a brief passage from the book in your presentation.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 8:45 AM on October 26, 2006

Best answer: Here's the notes for my presentation:

The Flâneur, The City and its 'Otherness'

(p.s. It went well)
posted by 0bvious at 7:25 AM on November 1, 2006

I remember learning about the Flaneur in art history. Specifically, I remember my teacher saying "She's all like, 'Hello, Mr. Flaneur!' I am sure he was referring to a nude, and I'm not sure which one. But I do remember learning that the men in Renoir's The Boating Party could be considered flaneurs.

Sorry, this is like six year old knowledge you're getting from me.
posted by clairezulkey at 12:58 PM on November 2, 2006

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