Unit I: INTRODUCTORY ISSUES
Thomas Jefferson commented that cities were "pestilential to the morals, the health, and the liberties of men." Such anti-urban arguments reach a climax with the work of Rev. Josiah Strong (Our Country, 1885) who argued that America was to be God's instrument to redeem the world, but the city stood in the way of that mission since it was a "storm center," full of "menace....Here is heaped the social dynamite; her roughs, gamblers, thieves, robbers, lawless and desperate men...ready...to raise riots for the purposes of destruction and plunder; here gather foreigners and wage-workers...Thus is our civilization multiplying and focalizing the elements of anarchy and destruction." At the same time, Walt Whitman, William James, Carl Sandburg, and other create an alternative discourse of the city, stressing its dynamic, forward-looking qualities and transformational potential. We will attempt to negotiate this discursive conflict by naming and avoiding the stereotypes and trying to steer clear of this either/or logic of the city.
- WRITTEN TEXTS:
- Old Testament, Tower of Babel Narrative, Genesis 11:1-10
- FILM/VIDEO TEXTS:
- Excerpts from Woody Allen, Manhattan; Resources on Manhattan
- King Vidor, The Crowd, 1929; Resources on The Crowd
- EXTRA RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE AMBITIOUS:
Peter Jukes (A Shout in the Street,1990) suggests a more complex approach to guide us, "City life can't be confined to one monological expertise; history flows through it, so does politics, so does reportage, pop music, philosophy....For a start, a city cannot be said to be a work of art, singular, but many competing works, plural. And even a single work of architecture is distinct from most other art forms in that unlike a symphony, a novel, or a landscape painting, people have to live in it. Instead of a work of art, the city is best seen as a domain of aesthetic contention. Aesthetics is not just the appreciation of the `beautiful,' but of the ugly, the exciting, the intimidating, the banal as well. As we shall see, the aesthetic perspective is not the end of the argument but the beginning of it." Taking our cue from Jukes' observation, this course will aim at an interdisciplinary humanities approach to the city and to images as well. We will observe and analyze not only how images and meanings are shaped, but also how these images shape us as well. Thus our course of studies only begins with film and media texts and moves us to deeper interdisciplinary analyses of sociological, historical, literary, and philosophic works.
Therefore, we will practice asking questions about the urban politics of images and representation. We will investigate not only anti-urban bias and urban stereotypes but also the strategies of resistance to these dominant views, emphasizing our own political accountability as citizens and creators of culture.