English R1B

Reading and Composition: London: Self and the City

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
12 Fall 2016 Wise, Diana Catherine
TTh 8-9:30 175 Dwinelle

Book List

Boswell, James: Boswell's London Journal, 1762-1763; Dickens, Charles: Bleak House; Pepys, Samuel: The Diary of Samuel Pepys; Smith, John Thompson: The Cries of London; Smith, Zadie: White Teeth; Woolf, Virginia: Mrs. Dalloway

Other Readings and Media

Course Reader: Robert Herrick, “His Return to London”; William Wordsworth, “London, 1802”; William Blake, “London”; etc.


“What strange phenomena we find in a great city, all we need do is stroll about with our eyes open,” exclaimed Baudelaire in Fleurs du Mal, his 1857 book of urban poetry: “Life swarms with innocent monsters.”

But what exactly is the relationship between these monsters and the city they’re roaming? Do they produce the city? Does the city create the monsters? What does it mean to be an individual in the enormous, sprawling, complicated, built-up wilderness of London?

This class tackles the self and the city, hopscotching through a long tradition of urban writing about London from the 16th century to the 21st. Beginning with two famous English diaries and the question of fashioning a self in 17th- and 18th-century London, we spend time with 19th-century civic improvements in the form of Dickens’s great novel Bleak House and anthropological documentations of London’s street scenes. We round out the course with Virginia Woolf’s high-modernist exploration of mental and urban wandering and Zadie Smith’s meditation on immigration and the city at the turn of the millenium.

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