This essay offers a reading of Walter Benjamin’s “The Moderne,” the third section of “The Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire.” It begins with an analysis of Baudelaire’s fantastic (or phantasmagoric) images of heroic figures found in Parisian crowds and proceeds to give an account of Benjamin’s analysis of how Baudelaire converts these fantasies into “roles” played by “the poet in Baudelaire,” whom Benjamin calls the “incognito.” By examining the essay’s composition, topics, and its insights into Baudelaire’s Les fleurs du mal, with particular regard for Benjamin’s findings on the poet’s “incognito,” the essay studies the logic of Benjamin’s findings, testing that logic through a reading of the prose-poem titled “La fausse monnaie.” It concludes by discussing Benjamin’s hypothesis in light of Jacques Derrida’s essay on that poem, as developed in his book Given Time: I. Counterfeit Money.

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