FLANEUR

FLANEUR

   The term flâneur comes from the French masculine noun flâneur—which has the basic meanings of “stroller”, “lounger”, “saunterer”, “loafer”—which itself comes from the French verb flâner, which means “to stroll”. Charles Baudelaire developed a derived meaning of flâneur—that of “a person who walks the city in order to experience it”. Because of the term’s usage and theorization by Baudelaire and numerous thinkers in economic, cultural, literary and historical fields, the idea of the flâneur has accumulated significant meaning as a referent for understanding urban phenomena and modernity. In French Canada flâner is rarely used to describe strolling and often has a negative connotation as the term’s most common usage refers to loitering.( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flaneur)

The flâneur is the link between routine perambulation, in which a person is only half-awake, making his way from point A to point B, and the moments of chiasmic epiphany that one reads of in Wordsworth or Joyce. He is acutely aware, a potent intellectual force of keen observation–a detective without a lead. If he were cast a character in the “drama of the world,” he would be its consciousness.

The Flaneur is the man of the public who knows himself to be of the public. The Flaneur is the individual sovereign of the order of things who is the able to transform faces and things so that for him they have only that meaning which he attributes to them. He therefore treats the objects of the city with a somewhat detached. The flaneur is the secret spectator of the spectacle od the spaces and places of the city. Consequentlyi Flanerie can, after Baudelaire, be understood a d the activity of the severeign spectator going about the city in order to find the things which will occupy his gaze and thus complete his otherwise dissatisfied existence; replace the sense of bereavement with a sense of life.

Writings on modernity often deal with the reshaping of the public space(work placei politics, and the urban space) . The study of cities as a central aspect of modern lfedeals with the figure of the flaneur. or stroller. This character was presented in the poerty of Charles Baudelaire and explored in the works of Walter Benjamin, Virgina Woolf and others. Benjamin views the flaneur, as one who is capable of giving a human face to the modern city. Walter Benjamin posits in his description of theflâneur that “Empathy is the nature of the intoxicationto 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. In so doing, he wandersthrough 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, gazing into the passing scene as others have gazed into campfires, yet “remain[ing] alert and vigilant” all the while. Also, According to Benjamin, the flâneur came to rise primarily because of an architectural change in the city of Paris. This change, which was rooted in budding capitalism, involved the creation of thearcades, which were passageways through neighborhoods which had been covered with a glass roof and braced by marble panels so as to create a sort of interior-exterior for vending purposes. Thesepassages were “lined with the most elegant shops, so that such an arcade is a city, even a world in miniature”

The flaneur feels at home in the street and amongs the massesi he blurs the boundaries  between he public and the private spheres and transforms the street into a hybrid domain between inside and outside.

“The streets becomes a dwelling for the flaneur ; he is as much at home amongst the faceds of houses  as a citizen is in his fours walls” / Benjamin, 1997 p.37)

The modern legal response to the stroller is ambivalence. On the other hand, he embodies the modern legal ideal of freedom of movement. Otherwise, his aimless wandering remains suspicious in the eyes of the law that is obligated to a modern rationality of purpose. This can explain why law codes, encluding in England and US, still include the archaic offense of loitering