• Global Autofictional Flânerie

    Shaj Mathew (see profile)
    Modernism (Literature), Civilization, Modern
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    This article troubles the longstanding rhyme between nineteenth-century Paris, flânerie, and modernity. It constructs a wider genealogy of flânerie in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, beginning with two figures who sauntered through the streets of Tehran: the fokoli and the farangimaab. By foregrounding the literal and fictional wanderings of these types, it locates the contemporary world flâneur in a non-Western tradition; in doing so, it avoids contributing to a Eurocentric understanding of Paris as the capital of modernity, one that posits Baudelaire as the point of departure for all readings of the flâneur. These efforts to expand the canon of flânerie do not deny the richness of the writings of Baudelaire and Benjamin—only their singularity. Looking to the fokoli and farangimaab thus contributes to the theoretical project of “provincializing Europe” by identifying “actual forms of cosmopolitan life.” In the process, the essay restores flânerie to its untapped complexity, capaciousness, and global origins. Flânerie was a ubiquitous feature of urbanization in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—a practice of literal ambulation and narrative focalization that ultimately enabled a critique of modernization. The article then describes how an interior vein of flânerie—paradigmatic examples of which are found in Persian literature—shares a close association with a now ubiquitous literary form called autofiction. In pointing out the homology between this way of walking and this way of writing, the essay demonstrates how autofiction is a formal expression of flânerie.
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    9 months ago
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