A literary history of walking From Dickens to Zizek
There is no such thing as the wrong step; every time we walk we are going somewhere. Moving around the modern city becomes more than from getting from A to B, but a way of understanding who and where you are. In a series of riveting intellectual rambles, Matthew Beaumont, retraces a history of the walker.
From Charles Dicken's insomniac night rambles to wandering through the faceless, windswept monuments of the neoliberal city, the act of walking is one of escape, self-discovery, disappearances and potential revolution. Pacing stride for stride alongside such literary amblers and thinkers as Edgar Allen Poe, Andrew Breton, H G Wells, Virginia Woolf, Jean Rhys and Ray Bradbury, Matthew Beaumont explores the relationship between the metropolis and its pedestrian life. He asks can you get lost in a crowd? It is polite to stare at people walking past on the street? What differentiates the city of daylight and the nocturnal metropolis? What connects walking, philosophy and the big toe? Can we save the city - or ourselves - by taking the pavement?
About the Author
Matthew Beaumont is a professor in the Department of English at University College, London. He is the the co-author, with Terry Eagleton, of The Task of the Critic: Terry Eagleton in Dialogue, and co-editor of Restless Cities. He is the author of the highly acclaimed Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London. He lives in London.
“[The Walker] is an erudite book that moves at a pace alternating between brisk and leisurely … Like his prose, Beaumont’s mind is anything but pedestrian. He is as attuned to matters of medicine and science, anthropology, economics, philosophy and psychology as he is to literature and the visual arts … Beaumont uses the language of contemporary literary theory, but with none of the rebarbative jargon-mongering of others in the professoriate. His references to the usual suspects—from Marx, Freud and Adorno through Lacan and Derrida, to Deleuze and Guattari, Žižek and Agamben—are never gratuitous, but always helpful in understanding the literary, historical, and psychological terrain he explores.” —Willard Spiegelman, Wall Street Journal
“Matthew Beaumont’s prose is the golden thread of elegance and erudition we need to guide us through the labyrinth of the modern city. These essays confirm him to be simultaneously the possessor of a coherent and convincing overview of emergent Modernist thought and creativity in the urban context, and the inheritor of all the radical subjectivities he engages with. This is a superb and always engrossing collection.” —Will Self, author of Psychogeography
Praise for Nightwalking:
“One of the most brilliant of the younger generation of English critics.” – Terry Eagleton
“Nothing less than a grand unifying theory of the counter-enlightenment.” – Will Self
“Part literary criticism, part social history, part polemic, this is a haunting addition to the canon of psychogeography.” – Financial Times
“An important and lively book” – Times Higher Education
“A wonderful book, that has many fascinating things to say about the night-time life of our capital down the ages. Rarely has a book on the subject of darkness been so illuminating; all insomniacs should read it.” – Ian Thomson, Standard
“The joy of Beaumont’s book is the way it illuminates both literature and urban politics through the splendors and panics of their nighttime journeys.” – Flavorwire
“An enthralling study of London after dark.... This is an impressive, magisterial book whose steady, earnest gaze also encompasses the lives of pickpockets and poets.” – Robert McCrum, Guardian
“This is a book pulsing with life, just as the streets do, despite attempts to cut that liminal, semi-illicit life off. The foreword and afterword, by Will Self, beautifully bracket the book, reinforcing the idea that the city is layered over time, and that each layer is accessible, and can be made vivid in the imagination. Why Nightwalking has not won a major award is beyond mine.” – Nicholas Lezard, Guardian