This study follows the trajectory of female flânerie and the representations of Western metropolises in women’s writing during the early twentieth century. I shall analyze the transformations of urban subjectivity and alienation in the works of Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923) and Jean Rhys (1890-1979). Born in British colonies and later moved to England before turning 20 years old, these writers depict how their sense of outsider develops in the dangerous and attractive spaces of the modern city. By examining the highly gendered landscape of European metropolises such as London and Paris in the early twentieth century, I shall explore how these landscapes shape or challenge the distinctive identity and subjectivity of the flâneuse. I would also like to explore how these protagonists, especially those colonial ones, meditate the alienation nature of flânerie during the early twentieth century.
In the 1920s and 1930s, the female subject experiences deeper scrutiny of selfhood when confronted with class or ethnic “other” , therefore creating an enlarged sense of self more sophisticated than before when the battle was fought just along gender lines. The subjectivity of the female wanderers calls for further exploration. By situating their works in the context of post-colonial studies, I shall also examine the paradoxes and challenges faced by these women writers who were both voyeurs and restless exiles in different urban spaces. While both writers demonstrate the nature of metropolitan life with respect to consumerism, their works are prominently concerned with consumerism and this treatment of the market’s power and breadth is projected, ultimately, on a global scale within an imperial historical context.
Qiang Fu, University of Tokyo, Japan
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