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First-Year Research Seminar: Shadow Cities: Literary Alterity and Urban Underworlds

Semester and Year SP 2016
Course Number FIRST-UG778
Section 001
Instructor Adrian Versteegh
Days MW
Time 9:30 AM - 10:45 AM
12:00 AM - 12:00 AM
Units 4
Level U



The city we see is not all there is. Over seven thousand miles of sewers undergird the five boroughs of New York; centuries of occluded catastrophe dictate the architectural fabric of modern London; and in metropolises around the world the labor of an unacknowledged precariat lets us pass through the urban everyday without reflection. This course looks at how these invisible cities are made visible through literature. We’ll grapple with the pathological, the potential, the evanescent, and even the scatological, as we ask how literature maps on to hidden registers of the built environment. Alongside conventional exercises in essay writing, research, and in-class presentations, students can expect to put theory into practice with assignments involving urban exploration, literary fieldwork, and urban audition. Writing requirements will include formal papers responding to readings; an exploration journal linking texts and experiences; construction of a city itinerary (and corresponding reaction to a classmate’s); and a final research project (which can, with permission, incorporate creative elements). Events at the Morbid Anatomy Museum and excursions with the Atlas Obscura collective may be arranged. Readings may include fiction (Daniel Defoe, China Miéville, Neil Gaiman), film ( Undercity ,  Dark Days ), photography (Wayne Barrar), sensation journalism (G.W.M. Reynolds, Eugène Sue, and the files of  The Illustrated Police News ), literary history (David Pike, W.G. Sebald), and social science (Margaret Morton, Robert Neuwirth, Russell and Cheryl Sharman).


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Course Type

First-Year Program: Research Seminars (FIRST-UG)