Publication Details

This paper was originally published as Cockburn, J, Ordnance, five hats and Constantinople: Benjamin, Gustafsson and Lubitsch, in Proceedings of the Walter Benjamin and the Architecture of Modernity Conference, Centre for Social Theory and Design, University of Technology Sydney, 17-19 August 2006. This is an extended version of the paper as presented.


This paper concentrates on identifying intellectual, cinematic and commercial representations of the efficiency movement as embodied in the emergent mechanical-flâneuse (the term is an obvious combination of the adjective ‘mechanical’, as a Taylorist/Fordist signifier, with the noun ‘flâneuse’, which is a gender inversion of the masculine flâneur: the metropolitan wanderer profiled in Benjamin’s re-examination of Baudelaire and 19th century Paris). To articulate these representations of the ‘new’ woman, under the influence of Americanism in post-1918 Europe, this paper focuses on two passages in Benjamin’s One Way Street. Benjamin’s passages are then read in juxtaposition to advertisements, the first for hats in the 1921 Paul U. Bergström Department Store Emporium (PUB) Spring Catalogue, Stockholm, Sweden, featuring a young Greta Gustafsson (Greta Garbo), and the second a 1923 advertisement for Lancia automobiles, in addition to early films directed by Ernst Lubitsch, such as The Oyster Princess (1919). The paper then sets out the trace of Taylorism in images of women from the inter-war period (1918-1939), before concluding on the proximity of these representations to the writings of Benjamin and the career and films of Lubitsch.