The Spectator and the City in Nineteenth Century American Literature

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Cambridge University Press, Oct 25, 1991 - Literary Criticism - 242 pages
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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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Acknowledgments page vii
The Development of the Flaneur in England
The Flaneur in the Nineteenth Century
The Flaneur in America
Interpreting the City
The Urban Spectator in Hawthornes Sketches
The Blithedale Romance and the Culture of Modernity
Whitman and
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