Flaneur as Detective

Flaneur by macfred64 (Flickr)

Flanerie can, after Baudelaire, be understood as the activity of the sovereign spectator going about the city in order to find the things which will occupy his gaze and thus complete his otherwise incomplete identity… [The flaneur] emerges as a new sort of hero, the product of modernity. He is the spectator of the modern world. (Cat’s Cradle:Flanerie 1)

This idea captured my attention. Briefly. There are some intriguing parallels to be explored between the activities of a flaneur and a detective. Unfortunately this blogger only glances on the topic. And in a second related post he actually muddles the concept a bit when he explains that a flaneur intends to be observed by the crowd, his/her audience. Hmmm. This idea may run true in Baudelaire, but it strikes me as problematic with the figure of a detective who endeavors to be discrete, virtually invisible to gather essential data.

The figure of the “flaneur” prefigures that of the detective…It suits him perfectly to see his indolence presented as a facade behind which the sustained attention of an observer never letting his eyes off the unsuspecting criminal… The Flaneur is out to be seen.The crowd is the audience. Flanerie is a “crowd practice”…The “flaneur” is like a detective seeking clues who read peoples characters not only from the physiognomy of their faces but via a social physiognomy of the streets. The image and activity of a ” flanerie ” is tied to the emergence of the popular genre of the detective novel and also the literary practice and social justification of labour time of journalists who, like the “flaneur”, put their observations both for sale on the market and wish to pursue their own purposes…(Cat’s Cradle: Flaneur 2)

I’m interested in (and ill informed about) this relationship between flanerie and the emergence of the detective novel. It’s an intriguing premise, and perhaps Cat’s Cradle author, Alphie, will return to the theme soon. Or others? I look forward to discovering more!

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