Taking a Walk with Judith Thompson: Flânerie Tames the Lion in the Streets

Brecken Rose Hancock


The structure of Judith Thompson’s play Lion in the Streets mimics the rambling practice of the flâneur who “reads the streets,” and deciphers the “ever new book” that is the “text of the city itself,” as described by Franz Hessel. Theories of flânerie expounded by Charles Baudelaire, Walter Benjamin, Michel de Certeau and Jane Jacobs shed light on the improvisational impulse of the flâneur, which often leads to more profound urban experience, such as character Isobel’s detection of crime in Toronto. Moreover, Thompson’s recasting of the flâneur as a lower-class, female “immigrant child” facilitates the critique of the violence of normative urban Canadian culture, and the fact that Isobel is a ghost allows her greater anonymity and mobility. Her ultimate forgiveness of her murderer has both Christian and secular significance, offering a possible solution to urban life’s cycle of violence.

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