Seeing the City Afresh: Writing About the Modern American City

Permission of Instructor and a brief letter on why one is interested in the class.
Limit of 18

The modern city—with its attractive industry, remarkable vitality, strange solitudes, and wide and varied human contrasts—gathers peoples and forces with such dynamism that it can seem as incomprehensible as it is interesting. How, then, does one see the city in its varied complexity with a rich understanding of the lives and institutions and sensibilities that animate it? How best to communicate the possibilities and frustrations of the city—especially on those perennial topics which are too often met with indifference or fatigue? We do so by telling its stories—compellingly. This course will explore the city through writing—employing the voices of poets, novelists, short story writers, journalists, critics, historians, philosophers, ethnographers, urbanists, musicians, filmmakers, and visual artists—and other media—film, photography, visual art, podcasts—and, through work leading to the completion of a longform narrative, students will join the chorus of storytellers to richly represent the variegated city. Focus will be on three nonfiction forms—essay, memoir, literary narrative—with special emphasis on the urban future—that is, the city coming out of the pandemic and wrestling with the complexities and legacies of racial injustice, migration, homelessness, climate change, and public space.

Note: this is a joint class with Architecture, but due to Institute barriers we were unable to officially give it dual numbering this year.