Slavic R5B, Section 1: Alternative Spaces: Urban Literature on the Fringes

TuTh 8-9:30, 2 Evans. Instructor: Isobel Palmer.

Units: 4

All Reading & Composition courses must be taken for a letter grade in order to fulfill this requirement for the Bachelor’s Degree. This course satisfies the second half or the “B” portion of the Reading and Composition requirement.

Analogies between city and text have long since become cliché; yet, as cities grow and populations multiply, the ability to parse the ways in which both space and literature shape the structures of social and mental life only becomes more essential. What is the relationship between the physical city and the city of social interaction, memory, fantasy or desire—between urban and literary space? How does space influence our daily lives and identities—and how, in turn, can our own writing become more conscious of the kinds of spaces and narratives it constructs?

Structured thematically around iconic city spaces and social forms, this course offers an overview of the key texts and themes of urban literature in the European context. At the same time, it looks critically at the dynamics of these depictions of the city and urban life, and to ask how differing experiences and perceptions of the city’s spaces and social relationships across gender and social divides give rise to a variety of literary strategies. We will read selections from such seminal texts as Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Andrei Bely’s Petersburg, and the poetry of Baudelaire alongside lesser-known texts by writers such as Anna Akhmatova, Penelope Fitzgerald, Italo Calvino, and Rebecca Solnit and directors such as Wim Wenders, to ask how representations of urban life navigate and evolve through different centuries, genders, and social classes.

Primary texts:
Georges Perec, Species of Spaces and Other Pieces. Penguin Classics, 2008. ISBN 0141442247
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978. ISBN 0156453800
Olesha, Envy. NYRB Classics, 2004. ISBN 1590170865
Penelope Fitzgerald, Offshore. Mariner Books, 2014. ISBN  0544361512
Course Reader.

Prerequisite:  Successful completion of the “A” portion of the Reading & Composition requirement or its equivalent.  Students may not enroll in nor attend R1B/R5B courses without completing this prerequisite.