Reading & Composition
Lost and Found in the American City
A poet who imagines Manhattan as a booming metropolis that welcomes anyone and everyone. A nineteenth-century writer for whom the rise of urban centers represents the promise of American prosperity. A Mexico City journalist who wonders whether individuality dissolves in his overcrowded, “post-apocalyptic city.” And a poet from East L.A. who struggles to find belonging among the freeway tangles and segregated spaces of her hometown, the so-called “City of Angeles.” Who—and what—gets lost and found in the American city? As cultural, political, and economic centers, how have American cities been imagined as spaces of success and opportunity but also exclusion and erasure? What’s at stake in portraying American cities as sites where people might find themselves and locate new worlds of possibility? At the same time, what gets lost—or pushed into possible oblivion—in and by the city?
With these questions in mind, we’ll spend the semester exploring and writing about the imagined landscapes of four of the most iconic cities on the American continent—New York, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, and Los Angeles. Along the way, we’ll learn to read and re-read, as well as write and revise, and we'll practice engaging and formulating compelling arguments in response to different kinds of cultural objects (writing of various genres, films, photographs, paintings, comics, songs), all while considering the ways in which American urban centers are experienced, constructed, and imagined as spaces where some get lost, others found.