English R1B

Reading and Composition: Writing the American City: From Redlining to Climate Change

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
8 Fall 2022 Beckett, Balthazar I.
MWF 12-1 SOCS180


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 early twentieth 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 “broken windows” 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 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. Over the course of this semester, students will submit two shorter essays, before concluding the course by submitting a research paper in which they will partake in a scholarly debate that they feel passionate about.

Course readings:

·       Marshall, Paule. Brown Girl, Brownstones. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2009 [1959]. ISBN-13: 978-0486468327.

·       Yates, Richard. Revolutionary Road. New York: Vintage, 2000 [1961]. · Eggers, Dave. Zeitoun. New York: Vintage (Random House), 2010. ISBN-13: 978-0307387943.

·       Lethem, Jonathan. The Fortress of Solitude. New York: Vintage, 2004 [2003]. ISBN-13: 978-0375724886.

·       Mengestu, Dinaw. The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears. New York: Riverhead, 2008 [2007]. ISBN-13:‎ 978-1594482854.

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, 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. Films include Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing and Joe Talbot’s The Last Black Man in San Francisco.

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