Strolling through the (post)modern city: Modes of being a flaneur in picture books

Mallan, Kerry M. (2012) Strolling through the (post)modern city: Modes of being a flaneur in picture books. The Lion and the Unicorn, 36(1), pp. 56-74.

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The city and the urban condition, popular subjects of art, literature, and film, have been commonly represented as fragmented, isolating, violent, with silent crowds moving through the hustle and bustle of a noisy, polluted cityspace. Included in this diverse artistic field is children’s literature—an area of creative and critical inquiry that continues to play a central role in illuminating and shaping perceptions of the city, of city lifestyles, and of the people who traverse the urban landscape. Fiction’s textual representations of cities, its sites and sights, lifestyles and characters have drawn on traditions of realist, satirical, and fantastic writing to produce the protean urban story—utopian, dystopian, visionary, satirical—with the goal of offering an account or critique of the contemporary city and the urban condition. In writing about cities and urban life, children’s literature variously locates the child in relation to the social (urban) space. This dialogic relation between subject and social space has been at the heart of writings about/of the flâneur: a figure who experiences modes of being in the city as it transforms under the influences of modernism and postmodernism. Within this context of a changing urban ontology brought about by (post)modern styles and practices, this article examines five contemporary picture books: The Cows Are Going to Paris by David Kirby and Allen Woodman; Ooh-la-la (Max in love) by Maira Kalman; Mr Chicken Goes to Paris and Old Tom’s Holiday by Leigh Hobbs; and The Empty City by David Megarrity. I investigate the possibility of these texts reviving the act of flânerie, but in a way that enables different modes of being a flâneur, a neo-flâneur. I suggest that the neo-flâneur retains some of the characteristics of the original flâneur, but incorporates others that take account of the changes wrought by postmodernity and globalization, particularly tourism and consumption. The dual issue at the heart of the discussion is that tourism and consumption as agents of cultural globalization offer a different way of thinking about the phenomenon of flânerie. While the flâneur can be regarded as the precursor to the tourist, the discussion considers how different modes of flânerie, such as the tourist-flâneur, are an inevitable outcome of commodification of the activities that accompany strolling through the (post)modern urban space.

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ID Code: 50615
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: flaneur, postmodernism, cities, children's literature, picture books
DOI: 10.1353/uni.2012.0002
ISSN: 0147-2593
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > CURRICULUM AND PEDAGOGY (130200) > Humanities and Social Sciences Curriculum and Pedagogy (excl. Economics Business and Management) (130205)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > LITERARY STUDIES (200500) > Literary Studies not elsewhere classified (200599)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Children & Youth Research Centre
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2012 The Johns Hopkins University Press
Deposited On: 27 May 2012 22:28
Last Modified: 12 Jun 2012 07:04

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