The parasitical and nocturnal existence that bound the poet to two of his avatars; the ragpicker and the flaneur. Baudelaire saw the poet as being at the end of production/use/trash cycle as a recuperator and force of regeneration. Both flaneur and garbage scavenger expressed the collective tension of desire in the emerging metropolis; the flaneur in search of the prostitute; the saleswoman and wares in one as Benjamin said, and the ragpicker in search of detritus, he himself just a hair above disposable status himself.
The flaneur is the compulsive observer of modernity, but is an outsider, constantly split and unfocused by the experience of change in the urban setting. He is of bourgeois origin, part of his identity, but somehow drifting into the margins where he does not participate, or only sporadically into this lifestyle or the social activities of the masses in general. He is also a detritus of modern bourgeois capitalism…
Baudelaire was very taken up by the ambiguities, the risks and pleasures of modern urban living, while trying to become a critical observer of modernity and in the process establishing himself as an antagonist to mass culture, in part by exposing some of the very violent undercurrents which modernity was bringing out in its quest for acquisition and social mobility. In the flaneur, Baudelaire realize the individual figure who could contradict commodification without being dismissed by it. An Interest in, but an ultimate distance and rejection from the crowd. “flanerie” then is an exercise in connaisseurship, in looking like an expert looking, similar to the discriminating ragpicker. The talent of the flaneur is in mastering, understanding and making some coherence of an urban scene, while refusing to partake in it. Perhaps Baudelaire had an artistic sentiment, or was opening the possibilities for the Durkheims and Weber to take their places, or was working through a Toqueville reading of American individualism, Melville, Poe etc. or even a foreshadowing of Kafka who could fit the profile. The possibilities were as endless as Benjamin’s interpretations of discarded objects…
…not too much to comment on this, except that Walter Benjamin may have been partaking in a bit too much hashish consumption, smoking an exceptional amount of dope, or at least by the standards of the day:
The most passionate investigation of telepathic phenomena, for example, will not teach us half as much about reading (which is an eminently telepathic process) as the profane illumination of reading will teach us about telepathic phenomena. And the most passionate investigation of the hashish trance will not teach us half as much about thinking (which is eminently narcotic) as the profane illumination of thinking will teach us
about the hashish trance. The reader, the thinker, the loiterer, the flâneur, are types of illuminati just as much as the opium eater, the
dreamer, the ecstatic. In this passage, Benjamin juxtaposes the reader, thinker, loiterer, and flâneur against the opium eater, dreamer, and ecstatic, claiming that the former are just as much types of illuminati as the latter. Of course, the latter represent truly exceptional, often
religiously significant, types of behavior. In these behaviors, illumination is something remarkable and demands a break from
the everyday world… Read More:http://www.epoche.ucsb.edu/Beaver06.pdf
“The only, the true sovereign of Paris I will name for you: he is the flâneur.”—A. Bazin, 1833
The figure of the illustrious flâneur is, in its simplest form, a French variation of the British Dandy. The French Flâneur imitated many characteristics of the English Nobleman in dress, behavior, and thought. However, in order to be considered a flâneur, one must possess a depth of thought beneath their well manicured façade. Keep in mind that every flâneur is a dandy, but not every dandy is a flâneur. Truthfully, the exterior of many flâneurs was quite similar to that of the everyday bourgeoisie male. Only members of his inner circle could whole-heartedly determine whether or not he was a flâneur. The flâneur was discreet and detached in his observations silently adding experiences to his ever-expanding “cerebral portfolio”….
“…we like to pose, to make a spectacle of ourselves, to have a public, a gallery, witnesses to our life. So profit from this Parisian mania in order to enrich your album with sketches., your notebooks with remarks, and your cerebral portfolios with observations.” –Alfred Delvau, 1867 Read More:http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/degas?before=1311105005