Thursday, 6 March 2014

A northern flaneur?

I suppose that my use of the term "flaneur" isn't very nuanced.  I tend to think of the flaneur as largely an aesthetic position (albeit a rambling position), i.e., a leisurely peripatetic observer who enjoys what is observed. And yet the flaneur, by the very nature of observing, is also part of the scenery, part of the scene, albeit on the fringes or margins of the scene.  Usually the flaneur is found strolling along in an urban environment.

In his essay on the Canadian poet Don McKay, Carmine Starnino referred to McKay as a "pastoral flaneur." I suppose Starnino intended it as a bit of a gentle gibe at the older, more established poet (not all Starnino's gibes in the essay were so gentle).  The phrase got me thinking, though: what would a non-urban flaneur be like? What kind of flaneur-ing would that be?

To take it another step further: what about a northern flaneur? A wintery flaneur? Loafing along in snow-shoes, enjoying the sight of evergreen trees draped with snow?  It seems to me entirely possible.  And yet here the flaneur is pulled into the very nature of what is observed--because it can't be otherwise.  The flaneur can't be at a safe, aesthetic distance from where he is. The environment - its cold, its remoteness - is too demanding.  But as Heraclitus claims, "nature loves to hide," so the flaneur is always on the margins of the scene.

Once again, be sure to bring something hot in that thermos.  



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Dear Jacob Bachinger,
    Looking for "flaneur" in Canada, I found your post and its interesting reflexion. I allow myself to send you a link to our dossier about flaneur in Canada and Germany:

    Hope you find in there some matter for your further reflexions.
    Have a good day!

    Mit freundlichen Grüßen,

    Eric Berthiaume
    Chargé de communication Web /
    Goethe-Institut Montréal
    1626, boul. St-Laurent, bureau 100
    Montréal, Québec H2X 2T1
    Tél. : +1 514 499 0159-108
    Téléc. : +1 514 499 0905

    1. Thank you for your comment and for sharing your dossier.