Cities on a Hill
English 200 B-Term. Cities on a Hill. What is it like to live in a city? Jonathan Raban says that “living in cities is an art, and we need the vocabulary of art, of style to describe the peculiar relationship between man and material that exists in the continual creative play of urban living.” This course will be about the “arts” of urban living, both as literature depicts it and as we inhabitants experience it. We will consider the city from two perspectives. First, we will read a variety of literary texts that emerge from the city. These will be stories about the new meanings produced by the city (Hawthorne’s “My Kinsman, Major Molineux”), the new forms of the urban novel (Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth and Paul Auster’s City of Glass), and the new ways that people interact there (LeRoi Jones’s Dutchman and Nella Larson’s Passing). These narratives will be accompanied by readings about the city’s rise and its manifold meanings: Georg Simmel on the “stranger,” Michel de Certeau on walking in the city, etc. This focus on the literary representations of the city will depend on what I consider to be the second aspect of the course, which will depend on the students’ own negotiations with, and understandings of, the city.