How do you read a city? How do you write a city? Are there shared aesthetic and thematic concerns among novels, photographs, films, and essays about American city life? In this summer course, I will give you some critical tools for understanding the many and varied cultural texts that deal with the American city. We will examine the role of the American city in popular culture from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day. Moving across such a broad time span, guiding concepts like modernity, modernism, postmodernity, and postmodernism will help us roughly periodize city cultures. We will discuss genres such as urban poetry, pulp fiction, film noir, site-specific performance, and creative nonfiction. This means you should be prepared to read and respond to a wide variety of styles from the mainstream to the experimental. Much of the work for this course will be done on a class blog, aucitycultures.wordpress.com. The internet provides scholars of popular culture with a rich archive of urban texts and a lively conversation about them, and I expect you to tap into both in your research and writing.


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