This essay suggests that the speaker of Gwendolyn Brooks's long poem, "In the Mecca," anticipates a specifically urban feminist poetics by narrating the poem from the perspective of a flâneuse. The speaker exhibits many signs of flânerie including detached observation, anonymous movement through the crowd, and unwilling detection of crime, but the experimental syllabic rhythms and diction identify the speaker with black urban culture. As a black flâneuse, the speaker can revise the urban mythopoesis by constructing a poetic urban map which posits the Mecca building as an alternate modernist city center. She metaphorically raises the Mecca building (after its literal razing) by navigating its labyrinthine halls and providing character vignettes of the residents, who appear as organic extensions of the building. This analysis is anchored by Walter Benjamin's study of flânerie and the recent feminist revisions of his definition, especially by Anne Friedberg.


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pp. 139-155
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