The spectator and the city in nineteenth-century American literature


The spectator and the city in nineteenth-century American literature

Dana Brand

Cambridge University Press, 1991

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Bibliography: p. 221-232

Includes index



In this publication, Brand traces the origin of the flaneur, a detached, casual, and powerful urban spectator, who regards the metropolis as an entertaining spectacle and text, of 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 his own 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, tracing the similarities and the differences that distinguish each author in his common search for literary forms adequate to the rush of city life.


  • Acknowledgements
  • 1. The flaneur and modernity
  • 2. The development of the flaneur in England
  • 3. The flaneur in the nineteenth century
  • 4. The flaneur in America
  • 5. From the flaneur to the detective: interpreting the city of Poe
  • 6. The urban spectator in Hawthorne's sketches
  • 7. The Blythedale Romance and the culture of modernity
  • 8. 'Immense phantom concourse': Whitman and the urban crowd
  • 9. Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Works cited
  • Index.

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