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Paris's dirty secrets: the flanêur and Haussmannization

Posted on 17/01/2012
The flaneur

A series of research seminars exploring the flâneur – meaning anidler or loafer – will be launched this week by the School of Modern Languages,Literatures and Cultures at Royal Holloway, University of London.

The flâneur has its origins inthe nineteenth century, when the leisurely ‘gentleman stroller’ emerged as a recognizable urban type in cities such as London and, especially, Paris, andconsequently became the subject of comment, satire and analysis.

The early twentieth century saw the figure impact on the work of journalists and critics writing in German, notably the work of Walter Benjamin. At the same time, city streets, the anonymity of crowds, and a fascination for ‘observation’ were characteristic preoccupations of many photographers, artists and filmmakers. More recently, the narrative position of the flâneur – a combination of critical distance andtotal immersion – has become a feature of travel writing in an increasingly mobile, globalized world.

The seminar series will explore aspects of this fascinating theme from the nineteenth century to the present day, with a lecture on Wednesday, January 18, by Dr Hannah Thompson exploring the figure of the flâneur through the work of French poet Charles Baudelaire and German theorist Walter Benjamin.

Dr Thompson’s lecture, ‘Two Parisian re-writings of the flâneur: the failure and the planner’, will identify two other figures who must negotiate the muddy streets of the capital in order to achieve financial and sexual success.

The seminar will be held in Windsor 004 at 1pm on Wednesday 18 January. For the full programme of seminars, please visit the School of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures website.




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