Walking in the Metropolis
Professor Andrea Baldi
CA-A5 College Ave Campus
Will Count Towards SAS - Italian MAJOR
Will Count Towards SAS - Italian MINOR
The seminar addresses the representation of walking in Western culture. Rooted in the everyday, in ordinary gestures, the experience of walking is pivotal to the shaping of our experience of place. Strolling relates to our most immediate way of staying in the world, examining and describing it. In the wake of modernity, the new urban subjects have fashioned walking as a style of apprehension and appropriation of their surroundings. Through their “rhetoric of walking,” their choices of itineraries, passers-by devise their own maps of the city, appropriating its spaces.
As it constitutes a primary way of relating to others and perceiving the environment around us, walking is a recurrent motif in literary and cinematic texts. Since antiquity, this practice has been prominently recorded in literature as a paradigm of a dynamic relationship with the outside world, often leading to detachment from the mundane sphere, and prompting reflection and introspection. “Walking can also be imagined as a visual activity, every walk a tour leisurely enough both to see and to think over the sights, to assimilate the new into the known” (Solnit). This observation of our living space is culturally encoded and, with its shifts and transformations in the course of time, reflects changing attitudes and customs, highly influenced by social and economic factors. Walking through the city is also, and foremost, codified by gender, as demonstrated by various models of flânerie, in which the sexual identity of the passer-by shapes the observation of urban space. Walking sets in motion essential processes regarding reflection, knowledge, and writing (as “stories are travels and travels are stories” [Solnit]). It is, ultimately, a call to participation in the world, as well as a process of cognitive discovery, moving from the outside to the inside.
About Professor Baldi
ANDREA BALDI is the Departmental Chair for the Italian Department. His research interests include: Early Modern Italian Literature, Italian Women's Writing, Relationships between Italian Literature and Film, Urban Studies.