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Journal Articles Senses and Society Year : 2017

A body passes by: the flâneur and the senses in nineteenth-century London and Paris

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Abstract

The flâneur is well-known for being the most emblematic nineteenth-century observer of urban life. Critics have often compared the flâneur to a camera eye which records everything and insisted on the predominance of sight over other senses in the cognitive process. This article emphasises the embodiedness of the flâneur’s vision, which is an experience of all the senses. Urban public space can be envisaged as a ‘metabolic space,’ in which “the links between background and figures are very unstable” (Augoyard 1991). The moving body of the flâneur, which can adapt to this changing space, seems to be in an ideal position to apprehend the metabolic body of the city. The flâneur is not only a “transparent eye-ball” (Emerson 2003), he is “a living eye” which communicates with all the other senses and captures the whole experience of moving through the city. By looking at texts by Balzac, Baudelaire, Dickens and Charlotte Brontë, the article shows that flânerie is a sensory activity that shapes our perception of the city as much as the city shapes our own flâneries by transforming our bodies into scribes who write the “thicks and thins of the urban text” (de Certeau, 1984).
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Dates and versions

halshs-01544131 , version 1 (21-06-2017)

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Estelle Murail. A body passes by: the flâneur and the senses in nineteenth-century London and Paris. Senses and Society, 2017, THE SENSES AND URBAN PUBLIC SPACE, 12 (2), pp.162 - 176. ⟨10.1080/17458927.2017.1310454⟩. ⟨halshs-01544131⟩
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