ABSTRACT

Le Spleen de Paris has been read as a systematic project which ref lects on the language of poetry and its figurative powers, as well as, more specifically, on Baudelaire’s own poetry, on Les Fleurs du mal. 1 Critical readings of Baudelaire’s prose poems have insisted on unearthing ever deeper levels of irony: irony directed against Les Fleurs du mal, the narrator’s irony towards his narrative, irony aimed at the narrator, or a constant self-ironization of the author and his aesthetic or political views. 2 In what follows, rather than adding a hitherto unexplored layer of irony, I shall locate one of the standpoints from which irony is unleashed in Baudelaire’s prose poems. I shall argue that their publication in La Presse and the description of the flâneur as a Protean authorial double allow them to be read as a comment on realist fiction and its commodification. In presenting the author in the guise of the flâneur, Baudelaire, on the one hand, detaches himself from the authorial subject of Les Fleurs du mal, whose inability to cope with the degrading conditions of the literary marketplace is demonstrated in the prose poem collection; on the other, the flâneur, the more pragmatic representative of the author, is explicitly associated with prostitution: Baudelaire thus undermines both his new authorial persona and the realist author.