« La beauté est dans la rue: » quand la littérature investit l’espace urbain

Balzac celebrates it for offering us a “gastronomy of the eyes;” for Baudelaire, it constitutes the quintessential territory of the “man of the crowds,” the artist dedicated to modern life. Apollinaire sings its industrial “swank” in order to rejuvenate poetry and Breton, along with other Surrealists (and later on the Situationists), marvels that it can be explored as the “only region of valid experience.” Perec, meanwhile, wishes to practice a “flatter way of seeing” as he describes it.

The Parisian street – simultaneously a place of exchange, perambulation, idleness, flirting, exclusion, revolution and emancipation – continues to fascinate writers. This class aims to examine “la rue” – and, by extension,  urban space – in its various literary representations, from the 19th century through May 68 and up to the present day. While our investigation will emphasize the formal innovation and the generic ambiguities that this singular location gives rise to, we will also systematically approach the street as a contested space in the aesthetic, philosophical and political realms.

Writers on the syllabus include: Apollinaire, Aragon, Balzac, Baudelaire, Bove, Breton, Chauvier, Clerc, Debord, Divry, Kaplan, Modiano, Perec, Quintane, Réda, Vasset.

The class will be conducted as a seminar and thus will be entirely discussion-based (in small and large groups). Each day, the instructor will lecture briefly to contextualize the readings and to underline key aspects to be considered.