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The City in Britain: A Cultural History

The City in Britain: A Cultural History
Seth Koven, History
Carla Yanni, Art History

This interdisciplinary graduate seminar, co-taught by an historian and an architectural historian, will explore the city in British history, art, architecture, visual culture, and literature in the 19th and 20th centuries.  We approach the city as a built space, as a crucible for the formation of social subjectivities and identities.  The city’s history is here broadly conceived to include the entire built environment, from the grand gestures of urban planners to the alleys  of the East End; we will study reform attempts, slum clearance, the settlement movement, and model housing. The gendered experience of the city will also be examined.  While the focus will be on London, the course will cover other British cities as well, especially as related to the vast social and physical changes wrought by industry and imperialism. Together we will read accounts of the city as it was recorded by tourists, prostitutes, social reformers, architecture critics, aristocrats, and match girls.  Emphasis will be placed on using visual sources as historical evidence (popular illustrations, maps, vintage photographs, buildings, urban plans, etc.)

Supported by a Mellon grant to the Rutgers British Studies Center, the seminar will offer students educational opportunities such as visits from eminent scholars from the UK, as well as a one-day conference called The Concrete City: Brutalism, Housing, and Preservation.

The class will be conducted as a seminar, with requirements including an in-class presentation with images and a fifteen- to twenty-page research paper. It will be open to students from History, Art History, Cultural Heritage and Preservation Studies, and other disciplines.

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