Re-envisioning Dickens’ City: London Through the Eyes of the Flâneur and Asmodeus
This chapter argues that the cultural crossings between two mythical urban archetypes may have contributed to shaping Dickens’ idiosyncratic gaze over London. For Michel De Certeau, there are two ways of seeing the city—there is the panoptic aerial viewpoint of the map-maker, which renders the city legible, and the walker’s perception of space at ground-level, which has to be apprehended through a rhetoric of walking—all too familiar to Dickens. The omniscient devil Asmodeus and the flâneur (urban stroller and keen observer of Parisian streets) are two literary figures that embody these two seemingly opposed modes of apprehending the city. This chapter demonstrates how these two protean figures became blurred during the nineteenth century, both in Parisian literature and in Dickens’ imagined London.