American Flaneur: The Cosmic Physiognomy of Edgar Allan Poe by James Werner PDF

By James Werner

Investigates the connections among Poe and the nineteenth-century flaneur - or walking city observer - and the centrality of the flaneur to Poe's literary goals and intimate but ambivalent dating along with his surrounding tradition.

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Extra info for American Flaneur: The Cosmic Physiognomy of Edgar Allan Poe (Studies in Major Literaryauthors, 33)

Example text

The magazinist, as much as any literary artist if not more, found himself in the predicament Michael Gilmore describes in the Jacksonian era: “[p]ublishing had become an industry, and the writer a producer of commodities for the literary marketplace” (3–4); more than ever, the American literary artist was forced “to market his ‘spiritual commodities’…to court the common reader to the detriment of his art… to sacrifice one audience, the few (and with it the hope of enduring fame), to the other, the many” (56).

Likewise, “[a]s architecture begins to outgrow art in the use of iron construction, so does painting in the panoramas” (149). ” Likewise, he argues, the world exhibitions “are the sites of pilgrimages to the commodity fetish. ‘Europe is on the move to look at merchandise,’ said Taine in 1855” (151). These exhibitions “glorify the exchange value of commodities. They create a framework in which commodities’ intrinsic value is 22 AMERICAN FLANEUR eclipsed” (152). This value does not disappear once the commodity’s seduction is consummated in a purchase; the commodity takes on “connoisseur value” when displayed in the owner’s private interior, which becomes for Benjamin “the retreat of art” (155).

By refusing to maintain any stable commitment to aesthetic values and instead catering completely to public and critical taste, the narrator is ultimately able to purchase and combine the various publications that had so vociferously maintained their unique character and fierce opposition to each other. Commercial success, on both individual and organizational levels, is clearly depicted as antagonistic to critical acumen or aesthetic value, as well as intellectual diversity. Another literary form Poe used to satirize literary commodification was the “tale of sensation” often found in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine.

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