A Flâneur for the 21st Century: DeLillo’s Cosmopolis

Haydon Hughes


Walter Benjamin’s flâneur figure has been a constant presence in the literature of the city since the figure’s evocation in the poetry of Charles Baudelaire. However, while the figure has more or less remained the same, it is the space in which the figure exists that has changed. Rather than focusing on the flâneur figure, my starting point is instead the city in which the flâneur exists. DeLillo’s novel Cosmopolis explores the notion of the flâneur in a city of the digital age. As the contemporary flâneur figure constructs the self within a digital space, traditional notions of the flâneur are lost – or at least need to be reimagined. This paper aims to explore the idea of a 21st century flâneur in DeLillo’s work Cosmopolis, to shed light on how we imagine ourselves in an increasingly digital world.


Keywords: flâneur, digital age, the post-9/11 city

Full Text:



Auster. Paul. Leviathan. London: Penguin Books, 1992.

---.The New York Trilogy. London: Faber & Faber, 1987.

Benjamin, Walter. The Writer of Modern Life: Essays on Charles Baudelaire. Trans. Howard Eiland, Edmund Jephcott. Ed. Michael Jennings. The Belknap Press of Havard University Press, Cambridge, 2006.

---.Reflections. Trans. Edmund Jephcott. Ed. Peter Demetz. New York: Shocken Books, 2007.

---. Illuminations. Trans. Harry Zohn. Ed. Hannah Arendt. New York: Shocken Books, 2007.

Berger, James. “Falling Towers and Postmodern Wild Children: Oliver Sacks, Don DeLillo, and Turns against Language”. Modern Language Association, Vol. 120, No. 2, Mar. 2005, 341-361.

Bremer, Sidney H. Urban Intersections; Meetings of Life and Literature in United States Cities, Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992.

Conte, Joseph M. “Writing Amid the Ruins: 9/11 and Cosmopolis”. The Cambridge Companion to Don DeLillo. Ed. John N Duvall. New York: Cambridge UP, 2008. 179-92.

DeLillo, Don. Cosmopolis. New York: Picador, 2003.

---.“In the Ruins of the Future”, Guardian. 22 December 2001. Web. Accessed: 25 July 2016.

---.Falling Man. New York: Scribner, 2007.

---.Underworld. New York: Scribner, 1997.

Merola, Nichola M. “Cosmopolis: Don DeLillo’s Melancholy Political Ecology”. American Literature, Vol. 84. No. 4, 2012, 827-853.

De Marco, Allessandra. “Don DeLillo’s Fiction of Finance Capital”. Literature Compass. Vol. 11, Issue. 10, 2014, 657-666.

Genosko, Gary, “The Spirit of Symbolic Exchange: Jean Baudrillard’s 9/11”, International Journal of Baudrillard Studies, Vol. 3, No. 11, January 2006.

Gilloch, Graeme, Myth and Metropolis: Walter Benjamin and the City, Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers, 1996.

Miller, Stephen, Walking New York; Reflections of American Writers from Walt Whitman to Teju Cole, New York: Fordham University Press, 2015.

Shaya, Gregory. “The Flaneur, the Badaud, and the Making of a Mass Public in France, circa 1860-1910”, The American Historical Review, Vol. 109, No. 1, 2004, 41-77.

Stephen, Bijan. “In Praise of the Flâneur”. The Paris Review. 17 Oct 2016. Web. Accessed: 26 May 2016.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.