Engine of Modernity: The Omnibus and Urban Culture in Nineteenth-Century Paris examines the connection between public transportation and popular culture in nineteenth-century Paris through a focus on the omnibus - a horse-drawn vehicle for mass urban transport which enabled contact across lines of class and gender. A major advancement in urban locomotion, the omnibus generated innovations in social practices by compelling passengers of diverse backgrounds to interact within the vehicle’s close confines. Although the omnibus itself did not actually have an engine, its arrival on the streets of Paris and in the pages of popular literature acted as a motor for a fundamental cultural shift in how people thought about the city, its social life, and its artistic representations. At the intersection of literary criticism and cultural history, Engine of Modernity argues that for nineteenth-century French writers and artists, the omnibus was much more than a mode of transportation. It became a metaphor through which to explore evolving social dynamics of class and gender, meditate on the meaning of progress and change, and reflect on one’s own literary and artistic practices.
is an apt metaphor for urban diversity, a sum total of human experiences contained both within the cramped space of the vehicle and between the book’s covers. But the tradition of engaging public transportation as a way to invoke a cultural moment, to grapple with a multitude of central themes of the time, and to experiment with literary form did not begin with Roubaud’s Ode . In fact, cultural fascination with publictransport emerged at the same time as the first vehicle of mass transit – the omnibus – was launched in Paris in 1828 ( Plate 1 ). A horse
– be it Théâtre des Français, Théâtre du Gymnase or Théâtre de Variétés.)
Fouinet’s assertion is undoubtedly tongue-in-cheek, and yet he rightly captures the intrinsic theatricality of the publictransport experience in drawing an explicit parallel between the social world of the omnibus and that of the popular theatre. On the one hand, the omnibus passengers enjoyed the moving spectacle of the modern city in all its multiplicity. Most importantly, however, the interior of the omnibus doubled as a roving theatrical stage where passengers are at once
forget that, on the one hand, appearances may be deceiving, and, on the other, a certain eagerness on your part may be misinterpreted.)
Perhaps even more importantly than the specifics of her advice, the article is based on Raymond’s personal experience, thus indicating that taking publictransport was an entirely proper and common thing to do for a woman of good moral standing. If this paragon of bourgeois propriety and feminine virtue could ride an omnibus alone, then any respectable woman could too, without risking her reputation.
And yet Aunt Cœur
In May 1958, and four years into the Algerian War of Independence, a revolt again appropriated the revolutionary and republican symbolism of the French Revolution by seizing power through a Committee of Public Safety. This book explores why a repressive colonial system that had for over a century maintained the material and intellectual backwardness of Algerian women now turned to an extensive programme of 'emancipation'. After a brief background sketch of the situation of Algerian women during the post-war decade, it discusses the various factors contributed to the emergence of the first significant women's organisations in the main urban centres. It was only after the outbreak of the rebellion in 1954 and the arrival of many hundreds of wives of army officers that the model of female interventionism became dramatically activated. The French military intervention in Algeria during 1954-1962 derived its force from the Orientalist current in European colonialism and also seemed to foreshadow the revival of global Islamophobia after 1979 and the eventual moves to 'liberate' Muslim societies by US-led neo-imperialism in Afghanistan and Iraq. For the women of Bordj Okhriss, as throughout Algeria, the French army represented a dangerous and powerful force associated with mass destruction, brutality and rape. The central contradiction facing the mobile socio-medical teams teams was how to gain the trust of Algerian women and to bring them social progress and emancipation when they themselves were part of an army that had destroyed their villages and driven them into refugee camps.
, an artist and an astute reader and decipherer of the rapidly changing urban and social landscape, the flâneur was a focal point of much of the urban literature on Paris, as well as of contemporary scholarly commentary on it.
In the section of The Arcades Project devoted to the rich archive of nineteenth-century flâneur writing, Walter Benjamin was the first to implicitly suggest a deep link between this figure, the act of urban strolling and the experience of publictransport. Over fifteen references to the Parisian omnibus appear in the ‘Flâneur’ section
on whether one was willing or able to get there on
foot, so sparse were transport services on Sundays. Again, what
might have been tolerated as an minor inconvenience had it been
for a short time became a wearisome part of existence when it
dragged on through the six years of war.
The 10 per cent of families fortunate enough to own a car might
in theory have been spared the miseries of publictransport. However, petrol was rationed for the private motorist at the outbreak of
war: just four gallons a month for the smallest car, ten for the largest, with
Omnibus literature and popular culture in nineteenth-century Paris
publictransport and popular culture, and thus the relationship between mass transit and mass entertainment.
Les omnibus, ou la revue en voiture was one among many works of popular literature that embraced the new form of mass transit as an archetypal modern subject that embodied many of the features of this very literature. An astonishing number of cultural documents published across the nineteenth century explored different aspects of the omnibus experience. These included a broad range of works of urban observation, literary guidebooks, 3 short stories
their responsibility for social services, schools, publictransport, etc.).
We had been thinking about this for years, and this
was interesting because the pandemic was one of the few things happening
in the world where we actually were well prepared. For ten years we had
worked out pandemic plans in Sweden and the EU. And we had a very obvious
rehearsal with bird flu some years earlier. So we
immunisation of children on publictransport vehicles (‘transport
teams’) or in public areas where they congregate (‘street
teams’) – using biscuits and candy as incentives, as one
vaccination team leader in Kaduna State described: 74
Now another strategy we have – we have a team
who just immunizes children in the street. We find an elderly woman