Today we’ll explore the concept of ‘La Flaneuse’. The term originates in the 19th Century with wealthy literary types, ie. rich men (Le Flaneur) who had the time and money to stroll the city streets observing and writing about the life they saw around them.
The Flaneur is an urban explorer who inhabits, but is detached from, city life. For women, the freedom to stroll the city at will was denied them until writers such as George Sand and Virginia Woolf took on the role of ‘La Flaneuse’.
Virginia Woolf described moving about the city encompassed by the “champagne brightness of the air and the sociability of the streets”. She went on to write about the joy she found in joining the surging mass of people, and of how she left the comforts of home to become “part of that vast republican army of anonymous trampers”. (You can read an article on Female Flaneurs here in the Guardian).
Lauren Elkin, in her beautiful recount of ‘idle strolling’ (also in the Guardian here), reclaims the notion of urban explorer for herself and all women who are disenfranchised by the city streets. She calls for the ‘determined, resourceful individual keenly attuned to the creative potential of the city, and the liberating possibilities of a good walk’.
So, where does that leave us in our blog post today?
It’s desperately hard in lockdown, I know, but the dream of returning to the city remains.
And what is it about that dream? I think it’s the chance to wander, to be free to follow a path I’ve not trodden before, to be lost in a world that is vibrant, diverse and absorbing.
I hope you have the chance to become a Flaneur/Flaneuse when the world opens up again.
Until next time,