|While my Anglo-Saxon roots do not allow me to be a true flâneur in the Gallic sense, I do strive.
|Le Flâneur - Comments and Observations on a Term
Here are some others’ comments, descriptions and observations of the phenomenon. (Many of these observations
are taken from the excellent website “The Arcades Project” :
A flâneur “a person who walks the city in order to experience it while remaining a detached observer.” – Baudelaire,
There is no Anglo-Saxon counterpart of that essentially Gallic individual, the deliberately aimless pedestrian,
unencumbered by any obligation or sense of urgency, who, being French and therefore frugal, wastes nothing,
including his time which he spends with the leisurely discrimination of a gourmet, savoring the multiple flavors of
his city. (Cornelia Otis Skinner,
The flâneur has no specific relationship with any individual, yet he establishes a temporary, yet deeply empathetic
and intimate relationship with all that he sees--an intimacy bordering on the conjugal--writing a bit of himself into
the margins of the text in which he is immersed, a text devised by selective disjunction.
("Ce qu'on voit dans les rues de Paris", What one sees on the streets of Paris)
The photographer is an armed version of the solitary walker reconnoitering, stalking, cruising the urban inferno, the
voyeuristic stroller who discovers the city as a landscape of voluptuous extremes. Adept of the joys of watching,
connoisseur of empathy, the flâneur finds the world 'picturesque.' (pg. 55)
The flâneur wanders through a wonderland of his own construction, imposing himself upon a shop window here, a
vagrant here, and an advertisement here. He flows like thought through his physical surroundings, walking in a
meditative trance, (Lopate 88), gazing into the passing scene as others have gazed into campfires, yet "remain[ing]
alert and vigilant" all the while
If he were cast a character in the "drama of the world," he would be its consciousness.
…his ability to be both active and intellectual, to be reading the past of the city while existing entirely in the present,
and his manner of coloring the landscape with a bit of his own psyche places the flâneur at the center point of a
whirlwind of contradictions.
Walter Benjamin posits in his description of the flâneur that "Empathy is the nature of the intoxication to which the
flâneur abandons himself in the crowd. He . . . enjoys the incomparable privilege of being himself and someone else
as he sees fit. Like a roving soul in search of a body, he enters another person whenever he wishes" (Baudelaire 55).
In this way the flâneur parasite, dragging the crowd for intellectual food--or material for his latest novel (Ponikwer
139-140). In so doing, he wanders through a wonderland of his own construction, imposing himself upon a shop
window here, a vagrant here, and an advertisement here. He flows like thought through his physical surroundings,
walking in a meditative trance, (Lopate 88), gazing into the passing scene as others have gazed into campfires, yet
"remain[ing] alert and vigilant" all the while (Missac 61) .