STUDY GUIDE Unit Two: Theorizing the City / Imag-ing
Reading Questions: Fischer,
Chapters 1 & 2; Kunstler,
Chapters, 3 & 4;
AudioVisual Guide Questions: Fritz Lang, Metropolis
Urban Experience, Chapters One and Two
Geography of Nowhere, Chapters Three & Four
Define the term urban.
What is a SMSA (Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area)?
What is the theoretical controversy that dominates urban studies? (pp.
6-7) Consider the example on page 6, par.1. Fashion as many objectives
to Alexander's statement as you can. What are the logical flaws in his
Compare modern cities to medieval and feudal cities.
Trace the dominant ideas of urbanism in Western Culture.
How did American ideas of the city take up this tradition? Consider Fischer's
overview of literature, politics, science fiction films, and popular music.
Explain each of the "four basic polarities that organize Western views
of city life:" Nature vs. Art; Familiarity vs. Strangeness; Community
vs. Individualism; and Tradition vs. Change. Which attributes are associated
with the city? Which with rural space?
Summarize American popular opinion on cities and urban life. What
is the popular view of suburban life?
Explain the three dominant schools of sociological argument regarding urbanism:
Theory (theory of urban anomie); Compositional Theory; and Ecological
How does Subcultural or Ecological Theory synthesize the first two
theories? Explain the suggestion that urbanism does shape social lifeónot,
however, by destroying social groups but instead by strengthening them.
How does urbanism intensify subcultures?
According to Kunstler, architecture and public land design connect fundamentally
with the more abstract ideological tenets of a society. What was the national
grid? How did the shape and structure of the national grid relate to
American ideals such as individualism? What is the relationship between
the grid and the American concept of community?
Kunstler explains that American cities flourished almost solely as centers
for business. How did this mercantile dominance show itself in the design
of public spaces and structures?
From 1850-1900, "city life changed more dramatically than any time since
the Renaissance." In this period, the tenement emerged. Define this
term and explain how the American notion of private property hindered the
development of livable city space for the working poor.
The Edenic concept of suburbia developed in this period. Define
the anti urban bias of American life and explain how that bias gave
rise to the utopic plan for suburbia.
Define the dream of Arcadia that motivated much suburban development.
What are the contradictions between the dream of Arcadia and the
democratic spirit of American political life? What was the undemocratic
model for the modern suburban house?
What was the zoning design for suburban streets? Describe the features
and drawbacks that persist today.
Describe Downing's suburban prototype Llewellyn Park. What were its strengths
and drawbacks? Describe Olmstead's Riverside. How did it differ from the
modern residential subdivision? Kunstler claims that these suburban prototypes
were not towns but rather real estate ventures. Explain this distinction.
What were the class dynamics that underlay these "communities"? How were
these communities "socially one-dimensional" and segregated? How did zoning
controls create this stratification?
By 1915, the romantic suburb was the accepted version of the Good Life
in America. Why does Kunstler describe this way of life as "an inorganic
community that pretended above all other virtues to be 'natural'?" What
was the relationship of suburban wealth to urban civic amenities?
Metropolis, Fritz Lang
How do the opening moments of the film create an ideological argument about
What visual motifs are emphasized? Why?
How are the characters established? Name them and trace Lang's presentation
of them visually.
How is city space imagined? Explain the nature and function of the vertical
presentation of urban space in the film. How is this design element
vitally connected to the plot and issues of the film?
How is the industrial context of modern city life presented and understood
in the film? How does the film use Marxist motifs to critique capitalism?
How is the issue of power treated in the film's design and lighting?
In what ways does the film comment on the nature of work in the industrial
How does the film use the images and metaphors of the Babel story?
How does the film use science fiction to interrogate the industrial city?
Discuss the "mad scientist" Rotwang. Discuss the "robot Maria."
How are acting, makeup, lighting, and script used to distinguish the Evil
Maria from the Good Maria? List the traits of each character. How are these
distinctions related to gender stereotypes?
Trace the biblical motifs (Tower of Babel, floods, Edenic tropes, and Christian
imagery) in the film. How are the architectural designs on the cathedral
doorway brought to life? Why?
Describe the surrealistic techniques used by the film to show Freder's
breakdown and the breakdown of civil society.