American City

Stories of the American City Post-1950s

8 Mondays, 1:30–3:30pm  / Beginning Sept. 8  (No session Oct. 13) / Jackson 005

This is a class I developed and taught at the Tufts University Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Fall 2014. I expect to be teaching a fully developed version of this as a Tufts ENV Special Topics class in Fall 2015

Class Description: Increasingly, Americans are choosing to live in the city again. Is this trend the result of a natural urban cycle? Does urban vitality always follow a period of decline or vice a versa? The answer is a fascinating mix of yes and no. In this class, we’ll read about Chicago and Los Angeles in three literary works, discussing the ways in which this “boom and bust” cycle is interwoven into our present economic structure. We’ll also discuss how the dramatic swings may be stabilized through creative reimagination, especially around the idea of community. The works we’ll read include two award-winning plays and a best-selling novel. During our eight sessions, we’ll unpack historic moments of city change: urban blight, racial segregation, city sprawl, and present-day urban revitalization. Readings will be 50-60 pages a week. Active participation will be encouraged. Maps and archival materials will be used to supplement our discussion. The three required texts are A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry (1959); Tropic of Orange, by Karen Tei Yamashita (1997); and Clybourne Park, by Bruce Norris (2011).

This class was well received and I enjoyed teaching it so much. The evaluations I received from the participants were detailed and helpful in refining the class. I look forward to improving upon the material and the use of technology in future iterations. Here are the evaluations: