ABSTRACT

Using Michael Fried’s work on absorption and theatricality, and Walter Benjamin’s figure of the flâneur and its counterpart, the detective, and his disparaged figure of the badaud, this article considers ways to characterize the walks of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s solitary walker, Socrates on the way to the Symposium, Henry V walking on the battlefield the night before Agincourt, and Trayvon Martin the evening he was killed by George Zimmerman. Each of these walks is a variation on contemplation, the risk of death, and the role of absorption and theatricality. I work toward a notion of theatrical absorption, or absorptive theatricality—the right to be out walking dressed in what could be a costume, and yet absorbed. This right includes the right to make it home alive, a right denied to Trayvon Martin. The article explores the tensions that might explain this tragic fact.

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