SoSe 15: The City in Color: Race and Urbanism in North American Fiction Since 1900
'America' is often depicted as a nation of small towns and rural landscapes: a country born in colonial New England or the ‘Wild West.’ But many founding myths and frontier stories in fact unfold on ... read more
'America' is often depicted as a nation of small towns and rural landscapes: a country born in colonial New England or the ‘Wild West.’ But many founding myths and frontier stories in fact unfold on the urban terrain of America’s cities. Fundamental to the experience of the American city is the concept of race—a contested, shifting, and crucial term that shapes urban spaces and our ideas of them. In American cities, race often takes center stage in legal and political battles, in novels and films, and in the lived reality of urban inhabitants.
This interdisciplinary course explores the dynamics of race in American cities as they unfold in fiction written since 1900. Alongside novels and plays, we will read seminal texts of urban studies and also turn occasionally to film and television shows in order to see how the urban dynamics of race appear in and shape our collective imagination and popular culture. We will ask which narrative strategies and aesthetic choices authors use to represent the city and its racial dimensions on the page. We will investigate issues such as urban housing, segregation, issues of policing, and the decline of central cities. close