New York City

Course Description

City derives from the Latin civitas and civis, meaning citizen. What does it mean to study a city’s history and development, to understand how its citizens coexist and comprise the many complicated layers of community that create a city? How are multiple identities defined and redefined in a bustling metropolis? New York City is an international nexus, exerting powerful influence in the areas of commerce, finance, architecture, culture, art, and politics. A big city of small neighborhoods, its many cultures are shaped by centuries of immigration. As E.B. White wrote, “To a New Yorker, the city is both changeless and changing.” New York City’s vibrant history and legendary diversity have always provided fertile ground for writing; there is a longstanding tradition of exploring and writing about the rich complexity of this city that we will seek to build on in this course. What areas of inquiry have these writings explored and what do they reveal about the city? What topics of debate have surfaced and what questions and conflicts have emerged, and how can our own writing analyze, interpret, and add to the body of work that already exists? Through the reading of fiction, journalism, essays, and urban studies; the viewing of films that use NYC as a setting in different ways; and our own formal essays and informal, open-ended writing, we will locate in our writing our own NYC voices among the many voices of the city.

Assignment Sequence Rationale

Through the process of draft and revision stages, and building upon questions raised and explored in pre-draft writing assignments and class discussion, four essays will be written during the semester.  The first asks for the development of an arguable thesis based on the analysis of a single source from the course readings on NYC. The second broadens the scope, asking for the comparative analysis of two sources from different media and the development of an argument that explores the tension between these different “texts.” The third calls for a specialized audience, asking students to investigate an issue relevant to the course topic and presenting their research within the conventions of a particular genre (a magazine article). The fourth calls for additional primary and secondary sources and the recasting of the third essay from an informative essay into an analytical argument using original research.

The materials and description for this course were revised in 2012.

Course Documents

Pre-Draft Assignments, Activities:

Previous versions of the syllabus:

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