Bettelheim, M. P. 2022. Flânerie or Flimflammery? — The Urban Myth of the Flâneur and Turtle-Walking. Bibliotheca Herpetologica 16(1):1–13. Published February 4, 2022.
Toward the end of the twentieth century, German philosopher, cultural critic, literary scholar, and essayist Walter Benjamin (1892–1940) rose to prominence in first Europe, and then the Americas, for his writings about aesthetic theory, literary criticism, and historical materialism. Benjamin’s opus on urban Parisian culture not only paid special attention to the Passages couverts de Paris, Paris’ renowned glass roof-covered, gaslit passages that composed the city’s extensive shopping arcades (Solibakke 2009), but also those that dwelled there. In his writing, Benjamin gave new flesh to "flânerie", the art of walking. But perhaps more importantly, in what could easily have been dismissed as a footnote, he also refashioned a character known as the "flâneur". The flâneur was an idler who became personified as a young man walking about the arcades of Paris with a turtle or tortoise on a leash to set his pace. Inexplicably, Benjamin’s turtle-walking flâneur became an indelible motif in art and literature, making a splash whose ripples are still felt today.