Dirt, Disintegration, and Disappointment: Sex and the City of Paris

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The flâneur is intrinsically associated with nineteenth-century Paris through the work of Baudelaire and Benjamin. But his antithetical relationship with the dirt and chaos which characterized Paris during Haussmannization, distances him from the often sordid realities of the nineteenth-century city. Through close-readings of L’Education sentimentale and La Curée, this article identifies two other figures, the failed flâneur and the planner, who have a more illuminating relationship with the physical and metaphorical dirt which embodies the nineteenth-century city. The Parisian wanderings of Frédéric Moreau and Aristide Saccard demonstrate that dirt functions as much more than an inconvenient by-product, or a marker of contigency. Instead it can be seen as a means of both representing and commenting on the relationship between passion and place, between sex and city which is mapped in the nineteenth-century novel.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-196
Number of pages13
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013


  • Paris
  • Flaubert
  • Zola
  • flaneur

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