• Course Number: ENGL 122UM
  • Prerequisites:

    Check on GOLD.

  • Advisory Enrollment Information:

    May be repeated for credit providing letter designations are different.

  • Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 122AA-ZZ
  • Quarter: Spring 2021

In a 1967 debate, Henri Lefebvre asserted that, “the city will only be rethought and reconstructed on its current ruins when we have properly understood that the city is the deployment of time.” Taking up this challenge from one of the greatest theorists of the city, this class will ask how urban life not only registers the dramatic changes of later twentieth-century history, but also initiates and embodies them. As many commentators have noted, the postwar period was marked by a series of transformations of the structure of everyday life under capitalism, and a seismic reconfiguration of the global order. The expansion of consumer society at the moment of decolonization created the conditions for what has become known as “the colonization of everyday life.” The imperatives of global capitalism simultaneously worked to regulate and homogenize human life, and yet populated urban space with ever-multiplying layers of diversity. The city – whether as imagined space, lived environment, or site of reconstruction – was at the heart of these multi-faceted transformations, simultaneously a utopian canvas for dreams of the future, and a dystopian nightmare of segregation and oppression.

Examining novels, films, essays, and television from 1940 to the present, we will address a number of questions thrown up by urban life in the later twentieth century. How, for instance, did the bombed cityscape of World War II provide planners with the dream of a future city, and how did immigration from former colonies transform urban life? How did the reconstruction of the European city institute seductive new forms of commodity culture? In what ways does the city serve to delineate social class? How do new sexual identities bring forth new forms of urban life, and how are these threatened by the rationalizing impulses of city planning? How might we investigate the ways in which the city subjugates women? How do ghettos work to segregate and racialize later- twentieth-century minority populations? And yet, underlying this story of oppression, we might perhaps ask a more hopeful question. While the contemporary city is persistently represented as the site of repression and control, in what ways are new forms of assembly, relationality, and resistance made possible through its alienated landscape?


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