English R1A

Reading & Composition: Everywhere is Nowhere: Urbanism and Place in Literature and Art

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
12 Fall 2012 Miller, Christopher Patrick
TTh 8-9:30 222 Wheeler

Book List

Calvino, Italo: Invisible Cities; O'Hara, Frank: Lunch Poems; Poe, Edgar Allen: Selected Stories of Edgar Allan Poe; Rilke, Rainer Maria: Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge; Whitman, Walt: Leaves of Grass; Woolf, Virginia: Mrs. Dalloway

Other Readings and Media

Course Reader: Essays:   Ralph Waldo Emerson “Experience”; Henri David Thoreau “Walking”; Baudelaire “Painter of Modern Life”; Walter Benjamin “Paris Expose 1935”; Gaston Bachelard “Poetics of Space” (selections); Robert Venturi and Denise Scott “Learning from Las Vegas”; Writings of the Situationists International (various essays); David Harvey “From Place to Space and Back Again”; Selections from other New York School and Modernist poets

Films / Photographs:  Photographs by Walker Evans, William Eggleston, Andreas Gursky, and Jeff Wall; films: Spike Lee “Do The Right Thing” and Kelly Reichardt “Wendy and Lucy”


How do you describe the feel of a city?  What gives a place character?  What enables someone know where they are?  What do we do when we are lost?   
This course will pursue fundamental questions about how we imagine, read, reconstruct, and inhabit places.  As we will see, practical questions about how to navigate or understand a place can open on to broad questions about how we value experience, construct social relations, and define the limits of public and private forms.  Just as architecture aspires to give a built form to human thought and ambition, so too does literature provide a formal context in which to experiment with different kinds of human movement and structure.  Our inquiries will take up place and urban experience as a complex social, historical, and political process in which imagination and reality are often interchangeable.  
To give us a ground for our conversations, we will look closely at many different “genres” of work about place, fictional and non-fictional.  Our focus will be on how to use these practical and conceptual questions to learn how to be effective critical readers and develop persuasive, contestable arguments. 

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