Universität Augsburg, 2013

The American metropolis has inspired the literary imagination ever since the rise of the cities in the 19th century. Object of fascination and fear in one, the urban world (and its underworlds) has since evoked contrary but intense responses; these range from the dread of a mechanized human life in the grid of the cityscape, to the ambiguous allure and repulsion of the ghettos and slums, but also include a modern utopia of consumerism,  intercultural encounter and self-fulfillment.

In this seminar, we will explore these – to borough Rem Koolhaas’ term- “delirious” spaces through a variety of fictional texts from different periods of American literary history. The course is designed to provide you with insights into epochs and literary styles such as realism/naturalism, modernism, and postmodernism, but also into the cultural and historical leitmotifs which are relevant for our topic.  We will, of course, practice interpretation and study skills with in-depth readings of narrative and lyrical texts.

Besides a wide range of shorter and theoretical texts, this seminar focuses on these core texts:

  • Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie (Signet Classics)
  • John Dos Passos, Manhattan Transfer (Penguin)
  • Paul Auster, The New York Trilogy (Faber and Faber), or: Paul Karasik & Paul Auster, City of Glass. Graphic Novel (Faber and Faber)