ISSN: 20509790
First published in 2014
3 issues per volume
Volume 4 Issue 1-2
Cover Date: July 2017
Pharmakopolis: Cesário Verde’s Lisbon
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Authors:  Charles Rice-Davis 
DOI: 10.1386/jucs.4.1-2.13_1

Cesário Verde,Lisbon,flâneur,Charles Baudelaire,nineteenth-century poetry,Pharmakon,Jacques Derrida

Through the example of the Portuguese poet Cesário Verde (1855–86), this article interrogates the relationship between the space of the nineteenth-century European capital city and the literary figure of the flâneur. Specifically, it considers in the first place the role of this aimless, noctambulist observer in a city (Lisbon) that differs in numerous ways from the better-studied locales of Paris and London. Second, it argues for an expansion of the understanding of the flâneur as passed down since Walter Benjamin’s reading of Baudelaire. Specifically, Cesário, owing both to his career as a physician and to his extremely understated, self-effacing poetic style, allows readers to glimpse the otherwise unnoticed psychological and physiological effects of the wandering, nocturnal observations that characterize the flâneur genre. Using Jacques Derrida’s concept of the pharmakon, a drug that both cures and poisons, this article makes the case that the flâneur, rather than a potentially subversive optic for social observation, represents instead an unending, constraining and addictive practice that is dictated by the very social and technological forces that enable his noctambulism. In this light, the otherwise free-wheeling and plotless text of the flâneur can instead be read as a narrative of capture, confinement and obligation.
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