GEOGRAPHY 337: THE MODERN AMERICAN CITY

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Course Blog 2013

Overview: Cities are dynamic places that concentrate financial capital as well as human and natural resources. In an era of globalization it is important to not only understand the city as a milieu comprised of neighborhoods, land uses, and political forces, but also as a node within a system of economic, social, and technological networks that are transforming landscapes well beyond the city limits. This course will briefly trace the formation of US cities from their rural beginnings through industrialization to their contemporary condition. We will focus on the city as a place that perpetually forges new relationships between capital, society, and nature. Additionally, we will investigate the deep-rooted social and economic processes of the neo-liberal city from a spatial perspective to acquire a more robust understanding of the contemporary built environment and urban life in the United States. Employing traditional methods and contemporary concepts of urban geography, this course introduces students to significant themes in academic urban geography and teaches them to critically interpret the perpetual changing American urban landscape and hypothesize its future development.

Course Focus: The course will examine social and economic spatial relationships of cities. The course will first focus on American class ideologies and the formation of urban space during industrialization. We will then examine how capital accumulation and technology often polarizes and abstracts space as well as how these processes affect individual movements, access to resources, and the public realm. Additionally we will look at how different human practices and/or performances of race, ethnicity, gender, and/or sexuality activate as well as transform the experience of urban space.

The course is designed for upper division students who want a more thorough understanding of urban processes. The course is pertinent for those interested in graduate studies or administrative work in urban geography, public policy, city planning, environmental planning, architecture and/or landscape architecture.

Course Structure: The Course is divided into four parts, each following a particular theme of urban space, society, and capital.

 

PART I: THE EVOLUTION OF THE AMERICAN CITY
Spatial configurations, urban form, and aesthetics of cities based on the industrialization process and American class ideologies of the design of the industrial city. (1800’s – mid 1900’s)

PART II: THE POLITICAL URBAN LANDSCAPE
Spatial configurations, urban form, and aesthetics of cities based on political and economic forces during an age of technological advancements in telecommunications and globalization. (Mid 1900’s - 2000’s)

PART III: AESTHETICS OF URBAN SPACE
Spatial configurations, urban form, and aesthetics of cities based on land ownership, privatization, and cultural capital of urban space. (Contemporary issues in Urban Geography.)

 

PART IV: CONTEMPORARY URBAN LIFE
Individual mobility and cultural performances as spatial practices that not only give meaning to one’s identity but also activate the urban environment. We will explore the city as a texture, where human actions weave with the built environment that creates a cultural landscape and sense of place. (Contemporary issues in Urban Geography.)

Course Texts:

Cronon, William. 1992. Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West. 1st Edition. W. W. Norton & Company.

Long, Joshua. 2010. Weird City: Sense of Place and Creative Resistance in Austin, Texas. 1st ed. University of Texas Press.

Waldie, D. J. 2005. Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir. W. W. Norton & Company.

 

Readers:
Bridge, Gary, and Sophie Watson, ed. 2010. The Blackwell City Reader. 2nd ed. Wiley-Blackwell.

GRG 337 Course Packet at UT - Coop

DOWNLOADS: Syllabus / Downtown & East Austin Walk / Midterm Study Questions / Final Exam Study Questions

 

/ Observational Assignment / Blog Post Waiver / Final Exam (2013)
Lecture Outlines:

PART I: THE EVOLUTION OF THE AMERICAN CITY

June 6: Introductions & Course Overview: The Evolution of the City
June 7: The Industrial City & Cultural Landscape Change
June 10: Urban Theories I: The Grid & the Garden: European to American Ideologies of “wilderness” & “the city”.
June 11: Urban Theories II: The Park
June 12: Urban Theories III: The City Beautiful & The White City
June 13: Urban Theories IV: Grand Strategies in Urban Design (Film clip from: American Experience: The World that Moses Built Part)

PART II: THE POLITICAL URBAN LANDSCAPE

June 14: Political Landscape I: Suburbia & Ghettoization
June 17: Film: “Pruitt-Igoe Myth”
June 18: Political Landscape II: Land-values, Land-use, Density and Urban Growth
June 19: Political Landscape III: The American City in a Global Economy
June 20: Transportation, Technology and Telecommunications (Collage Due!)
June 21: A Global Perspective: The Latin American City, a Comparative Analysis - (Guest Lecture by Prof. William Doolittle)
June 24: Film: “Requiem for Detroit”
June 25: Midterm exam

PART III: AESTHETICS OF URBAN SPACE

June 26: Whose City? I: Public vs. Private Space (Fortress City & Shopping Malls)
June 27: Whose City? II: Image of the City: Cultural Capital -(Guest Lecture by Prof. Joshua Long)
June 28: Whose City? V: Gentrification & Identity. Film: “Flag Wars”

​July 1: Whose City? III: Disneyfication & Gentrification
​July 2: Whose City? IV: Austin Downtown Walk (Meet at 2nd St. and Lavaca at W Hotel 9AM)

PART IV: CONTEMPORARY URBAN LIFE

July 3: Society & Culture I: The Body & Mobility
July 4: Holiday

July 5: Society & Culture III: Gender & Sexuality. Film: “Paris is Burning”

July 8: Society & Culture II: Race & Ethnicity: Latino Landscapes
July 9: Society & Culture IV: Modern Agriculture to Eating in the City

July 10: Society & Culture V: Forging New Cultural Relationships. Film: “Transfusión”

July 11: Urban Theories V: New Urbanism, Landscape Urbanism, Modern Landscape Architecture; Course Recap

 

 

FINAL EXAM

 

© Robert Lemon / rdlemon@gmail.com / 510-332-7942