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A Flaneur's Discourse

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Convalescents: The urban convalescent, oddly, makes a plausible candidate for the role of what Baudelaire called the hero of modernity. Baudelaire himself, in his discussions of Constantin Guys, celebrates the convalescent as someone perfectly adapted to the poetics of metropolitan life, because he is at the same time both insulated from its habitual shocks and acutely, nervily sensitive to its rhythms. Baudelaire's aesthetics of convalescence are derived from Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Man of the Crowd'. For a fuller account, see Matthew Beaumont, 'Convalescing', in Restless Cities (London: Verso, 2010), pp. 59-77. (MB)

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Dreamers: From the Romantics to the Situationists the visionary experience of the metropolis has been construed in terms of an intimate, antagonistic relationship between dream and daydream. Dream: as messy and real as living and playing, working and walking. Daydream: a kind of airbrushed reality. The opposition is there in Hazlitt and Lamb. It is also there in De Quincey and Baudelaire, witness the latter’s superb poeme-en-prose ‘La Chambre Double’ which begins as an afternoon reverie and then is suddenly transformed (by a knock at the door from a debt collector) into a full-blown nightmare: ‘Horrors! I remember! Yes I remember!  This filthy hole, this abode of eternal boredom is where I live!’ Dream may bring in its revenges, but the Surrealists preferred those to the abstract daydreams of Le Corbusier and the functionalist school of architectural modernism. So too for Guy Debord and the Situationists, dream was the organising principle of the ideal post-war city. For more, see Gregory Dart, ‘Daydreaming’ in Restless Cities (London: Verso, 2010), pp. 79-97. (GD)


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Strangers: 'Could she have walked by him without noticing? On a half-crowded street at noon, her mind divided between her starting point and her destination, preoccupied with other thoughts - of course she could have. What will survive of them? The day will come when they are strangers again, but less even than that: they will be strangers without the usual privileges of meeting for the first time - of a chance encounter, of newfound attraction. Of unexpectedly falling in love.' Ian Mackenzie, City of Strangers (2009)


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Page last modified on 15 jun 10 10:20

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