While Teju Cole’s 2011 novel Open City has been received as an exemplary cosmopolitan performance, a careful reading of the novel’s engagement with memories of suffering and of its evocations of aesthetic experiences shows that it interrogates rather than affirms an aesthetic cosmopolitan program. Through its use of a flat, nearly affectless tone, it renders visible the inability of contemporary calls for aesthetic and memorial cosmopolitan practices to engage a global landscape riven by injustice and inequality. As the novel progresses, its apparent celebration of the exemplary cosmopolitan figure of the flâneur makes way for the decidedly less glamorous figure of the fugueur. By mobilizing this marginal figure from the history of psychiatry, a condition marked by unwanted restlessness and ambulatory automatism, Open City exposes the limited critical purchase of the imaginative mobility and intercultural curiosity celebrated by cosmopolitan defenses of literature and art.


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pp. 40-57
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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