Baudelaire’s “Painter of Modern Life”

Baudelaire depicts the flâneur as a man of the crowd, emphasizing his ability to become a part of the crowd, observing others but remaining incognito himself. This observer sits at coffee shops watching the people passing by and observing his surroundings. The flâneur has a passion for curiosity, working as the underlying motivation for the constant wondering and observing of the city. This passion is an output of a unique ability to see a state of newness in everything. Like a child seeing the world for the first time, the flâneur has an appreciation for the generic, finding meaning and beauty in everyday sights. As a “passionate spectator” these individuals simply become engulfed in the world of Paris with no motivation than to become one with the city. The flâneur has the unique ability “to be away from home and yet feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world; to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world” (Baudelaire 9). The ability to become one with the crowd and become anonymous is a cornerstone of flânerie, “the spectator is a prince who everywhere rejoices in his incognito” (9).  It is this anonymity that makes the observer unique in his behavior and results in the unique and incomparable knowledge of the city.

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