Flânerie, or the practice of urban strolling described in nineteenth-century French print and visual culture, has evolved throughout modernity, expanding its reach into more global literary traditions and becoming an important topic of research in numerous fields of academic study. Various phenomena have shaped the evolution of how we walk in the city and how artists, essayists, and journalists record it, none more so than the forced lockdowns associated with the global Covid-19 pandemic. Journalists in France invented expressions like flânerie inversée, impossible flânerie, and librairie flânerie to describe new city practices. They looked to figures like the fashion flâneuse on the catwalk as a means of sublimating the stillness and monotony of the coronavirus confinement. This article traces the emergence between March 2020 and April 2021of these variations in shopping and fashion contexts, which underscore the enduring legacy of the practice and its everlasting presence in French culture.
Marylaura Papalas is associate professor of French at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina and also serves as book review editor for Studies in 20th & 21st Century Literature. She specializes in women writers and artists of the French avant-garde, focusing on themes of gender, identity, urbanism, and fashion in their work. She coedited and co-introduced with Kelly Comfort New Directions in Flânerie: Global Perspectives for the Twenty-First Century (2021), a collection of essays that focuses on literary and popular representations of urban walking from 1800 to the present. Her upcoming monograph on the construction of interwar femininity looks to fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli and the ways that the figures who wear her garments in transatlantic literature, film, theater, and popular culture intersect with or challenge contemporaneous archetypes like the New Woman and la femme moderne.