The Spectator and the City in Nineteenth Century American Literature
In his book Brand traces the origin of the flaneur, a detached and powerful urban spectator, to seventeenth century English literature. He then discusses the development of the English language tradition of the flaneur in its social, cultural and philosophical contexts. Taking the encounter with the spectator and city life as an important point of contact with modernity, Brand offers new readings of three of the most important American writers of the nineteenth century, Poe, Hawthorne, and Whitman, and the way in which, at various points in their work, each author represents a spectator who looks at a city crowd and responds to it as an entertaining spectacle. These three authors, by engaging and modifying this important tradition of representing the city as chaotic and unpleasant, dealt with issues that American writers are not normally thought to have dealt with before the Civil War. His approach enables him to offer new readings of these authors' texts, as well as a new perspective on Poe's invention of the detective story, Hawthorne's complex fascination with cities and modern life, and Whitman's effort to develop a new kind of urban poetry. In charting the movement from Poe to Hawthorne to Whitman, Brand traces the similarities and the differences that distinguish each author in his common search for literary forms adequate to the rush of city life. If these forms seem to us today to be peculiarly modern, then we need to acknowledge, as the book suggests, how profoundly we still live under the shadow of the flaneur and his literary descendants.
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Addison and Steele aesthetic American amusement antiurban appears arcades assertion audience Auguste Dupin Baudelaire become Benjamin Blithedale Romance Calamus carnivalesque characteristic conception coney-catching consciousness cosmopolitan Coverdale Coverdale's crime Crossing Brooklyn Ferry culture describes detached detective story Dickens diorama Dupin Egan encounter English essay experience fact fascination flaneur gaze genre Hawthorne Hawthorne's Hollingsworth human identified imaginative individual interpretation invisible Leaves of Grass literature London magazines Marie Roget mesmerism metropolis modern moral murder mystery narrator of Sights narrator's Nathaniel Parker Willis newspapers nineteenth century observes offers Panopticon panoramic Paris period photograph pleasure Poe's poems poet poetry popular possible Priscilla reader representation represented Royal Exchange Rue Morgue sense Sketches by Boz social society spectacle spectatorial Steeple streets suggests Tatler tradition urban crowd urban spectator urban spectatorship utopian utopian socialism Wakefield Walt Whitman Walter Benjamin Westervelt Whitman Willis Wordsworth writes wrote York Zenobia