Constructing Paris: Flânerie, Female Spectatorship, and the Discourses of Fashion in Französische Miscellen (1803)

Karin Baumgartner


The article investigates urban vignettes about Paris written by Helmina von Chézy (1783–1856) for the journal Französische Miscellen. I argue that Chézy attempted to investigate the possibilities of women’s access to the modern city and of female spectatorship, and in doing so, provided her readers with an original model of how to imagine the modern city. The article centers on three interrelated topics: flânerie and its possibilities for a female narrator, ways of turning visual images into language, and the discourse of fashion that allowed Chézy to portray Paris as a kaleidoscope of details. Fashion, I conclude, provided the author with a modern way of rendering the post-Revolutionary world of 1803 as an assemblage of parts. The article series supplied the journal’s readers with a radical and distinctly female blueprint of how to experience urban space. The text is a unique and early contribution to the literature of flânerie by a female writer.

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