Jérôme David

Literary ontologies of the parisian space: hermites and flâneurs of the first half of the nineteenth-century

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This paper argues for a reappraisal of literary mimesis as a condition for the integration of literature in the archive of urban history. Considered not only as the mere representation of a preexisting city, but also as a symbolic intervention upon the readers' ordinary frames of experience, literature tends to produce urban ontologies. In the parisian case, this privilege given to the pragmatic dimension of aesthetic works goes against the dominant literary history of the nineteenth-century France, as Walter Benjamin and later Karlheinz Stierle have put it. The distinction between two minor literary genres exemplified by the figures of the "hermite" and the "flâneur", and generally confounded under the general denomination of panoramic literature, offers an exemplary case of two very different images of Paris, based on partly incommensurable scales of description, social sensibilities and expected effects on readers.

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