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The University of Hong Kong
“Why shouldn’t the flâneur be stoned”: Anglo-Québécois Writer Gail Scott’s Turn-of-the-Millennium Novel My Paris

This talk offers a slice of my ongoing book project “Imperfect Flâneurs” (in contract with McGill-Queen’s UP) which studies reïnterpretations of the flâneur in contemporary novels. Baudelaire sketches the perfect flâneur as a cosmopolitan spectator who feels everywhere at home and sees the world from the privileged position at the centre. My project emerges from this simple question: can the flâneur be imperfect?

My example for the talk is Gail Scott’s 1999 novel My Paris – a fictional travel journal of the writer who won a six-month residency with studio space in Paris. Like many travellers and sojourners in Paris today, during her stay, the narrator is tempted to taste the pleasures of walking Paris as a flâneur. Her daily flânerie leads her to this unexpected question with a street slang in the predicate, “why shouldn’t the flâneur be stoned[?]” I propose an innovative reading of this novel by way of critical reflection on this rhetorical question. The profound implications behind it are relevant to Scott’s creative process and such unprecedented features in this novel as the conversion of most of the verbs into present participles and the fabrication of a narrative voice that can be described as porous and sutured.


Simon Ng is a Full-time Lecturer in the School of English, HKU. He obtained a PhD in English Studies in a francophone research university in Canada, the University of Montreal. His primary field of specialization is literature and the city. The substance in this talk comes from the unique environment of his PhD study: the work of a Montreal-based literary writer who is committed to writing in English with the sound of French in her ear.