Modern Urban Landscapes: Modern Cities and City Life
Nicholas Green (1990) argues that Paris in the nineteenth century developed an urban vision of itself and its surrounding hinterland that he calls the 'metropolitan gaze'. This city-centred culture and lifestyle cut across economic class divisions, drawing in businessmen and consumers from provincial towns but excluding peasant farmers and landed aristocracy. It framed the city in a flood of painted urban portraits, printed guide
A most effective character in Parisian novels and poetry of the day was the flaneur (wanderer), an individual who strolled around at will in the city observing both the commonplace and the unusual, without ever fully participating. Although bourgeois, and with time to spare, he was a man of the crowd and in current parlance he would be called streetwise. Charles Baudelaire used the flaneur as a narrative device in his literature, particularly his Paris spleen collection of 1869 and this helps us, the modern reader, to see the city through the eyes of a contemporary, albeit fictional, observer. Charles Dickens' descriptions of London at the same time, based on his own hours of wandering the streets, perform a similar function.