English R1B

Reading and Composition: Writing the American City, 1900 to today

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
9 Spring 2018 Beckett, Balthazar I.
TTh 8-9:30 225 Dwinelle

Book List

Eggers, Dave: Zeiton; Marshall, Paule: Brown Girl, Brownstones; Yamashita, Karen Tei: I Hotel

Other Readings and Media

Selections from other fictional and non-fictional texts will be made available online. These will include texts by James Baldwin, Toni Cade Bambara, Marshall Berman, Mike Davis, Ashley Dawson, Matthew Desmond, Amitav Ghosh, Jane Jacobs, Naomi Klein, Jonathan Lethem, Dawn Bohulano Mabalon, Jodi Melamed, Peter Moskowitz, Suleiman Osman, Nathaniel Rich, Richard Rothstein, Roy Scranton, Nayan Shah, Anna Deavere Smith, Rebecca Solnit, John Edgar Wideman, and Craig Wilder.


The American city is an incredibly complex and dynamic organism—and the subject of a great body of literature, both fiction and non-fiction. This course will trace and critically engage how American urban development has been written about from the late nineteenth century to today. We will follow how writers have addressed the dramatic changes that American urban spaces underwent from the progressive era, turn-of-the-century segregation, and the experience of the Great Migration to redlining, white flight, and suburbanization in the wake of the New Deal. Studying metropolitan areas across the nation—from New York City to the Bay Area and from Chicago to New Orleans—this course asks students to write critically about urban development from the battles over “urban renewal” and the anti-eviction campaigns of the Civil Rights era to the impact of 1970s neoliberal policies, the “war on drugs” and militarized policing, and the urban uprisings of the early 1990s. We will end this semester by studying how writers address the impact that hyper-gentrification and climate chaos (from disaster capitalism to grassroots organizing) have on American cities today.

Building on the skills students have acquired in R1A, this course will continue to develop reading, writing, and research skills with the aim to practice writing longer essays that are rhetorically aware and partake in relevant scholarly conversations. To this end, students will practice creating varied, rhetorically aware compositions; reflect on writing practices, processes and strategies; and incorporate feedback to globally revise drafts. To develop responsible positions, students fine-tune research skills, evaluating scholarly and non-scholarly sources and incorporating a variety of perspectives. Students will write and revise two short critical essays (4-5 pages) and one final research paper (8-10 pages).


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