Studies in Twentieth-Century Literature : Cityscapes: Mobility, Transience, Flows

Course Number: ENGL 234
Prerequisites: Check on GOLD
General Education Areas Fulfilled: Check on GOLD
Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 234
Quarter: Winter 2011
Instructor: Boscagli, Maurizia
Day(s): W
Time: 11:00 AM - 1:50 PM
Location: SH 2617

Content of the course will vary from quarter to quarter and these courses may be repeated for credit with consent of the chair of the departmental graduate committee.

This is a course on urban space during the 20th and 21st century. We will study the city through a materialist approach that examines architecture and architectural discourse, literature, film, and critical theory. In late modernity and post-Fordism (the period under consideration) the urban has been produced more and more according to the principle of the regulation/surveillance of bodies, individuals, and objects in space, in the belief that order can be established by situating people and commodities in a grid-like system. The grid wants to maintain a smooth and predictable circulation of flows, the swift movement of people (masses and individuals) aimed to consumption in a space purified of any element of disturbance (think the aseptic, even deodorized ambiance of the mall, with its fountains and piped in musak). Against the blandscape of the mall (as symbolic of posturban space), and the staged animation of contemporary urban living (ex: the heritage landscape), we will be looking for spaces that disrupt this fantasy, and foreground the unpredictable, and a more rhizomatic production of movement and subjectity/experience. We will be concerned with questions of hybridity, marginality and “out-of placedness” (immigration), mobilities that hinder and stop ordered city flows (homelessness), transience and nomadism; with the systematic production of the spectacular, with the generic city vs. the ruin, and, last but not least, with the biopolitical dimension of inhabiting the city (our somatic experience of the urban, the awareness of our embodied relationship with space), in order to understand what performance of the urban the contemporary city demands.

We will start with early 20th century city-discourse (Giedeon, Benjamin, Bataille, Le Corbusier) to discuss mid-twentieth century responses to the modernist impulse to order and streamlined minimalism (Guy Debord and Situationism, Lefebvre, Auge’), to contemporary debates on the post-urban (Rem Koolhaas, Beatriz Colomina, Paul Virilio, Edward Soja, Nigel Thrift, David Harvey, Thomas Dumm). We will examine fiction by Iain Sinclair and J.G. Ballard, art by Andrea Zittel, as well as films by Michael Haneke, Fritz Lang, Wong-Kar-Wai, Ken Loach.