Special Topics: The Art of Flânerie
270 Tappan
T 1:00-4:00pm
3 Credit Seminar

This course focuses on the emergence during the 1860s and 1870s of a loosely related cast of artists who shared a common enthusiasm for motifs drawn directly from the experience of modern life in Paris. This new interest in the city, its inhabitants, and their characteristic forms of work and leisure represented a major--and in some quarters unwelcome--shift in the realm of ambitious painting. But for nineteenth-century Parisians it also corresponded to the somewhat less lofty predilections of the flâneur--a well-known social type defined in equal measure by idle meanderings through the city and acute powers of observation. To paint modern life, in other words, was also to engage (or to pretend to engage) in flânerie, and to capture in concrete form the various encounters of the individual artist with the city. Or so it would seem standing before any number of modern-life paintings by the likes of Manet, Degas, Monet, Renoir, and Caillebotte. Our objective is to assess a selection of these paintings within a specific socio-cultural context. The context is Paris during the Second Empire and the first decade of the Third Republic, and it is one of our tasks to consider the various contemporaneous discourses (art historical, stylistic, critical, literary, etc.) that intersect in a given painting. Because of our focus on flâneur imagery, part of our contextual work will also involve mid-nineteenth-century notions of self and subjectivity, as well as the tremendous popularity of illustrated books that presumed to describe all Parisians (including the flâneur) as recognizable social types. Requirements: weekly responses to course readings and a long (@ 15-20 pages) research paper. Prerequisites: none. Advisory prerequisites: upper-class standing. Estimated cost: less than $50. D. 4