Monday, April 28, 2014


Important Reminders:
  • No class will be held this Wed, 30 April 2014. Please use that time to work on your topic proposal or start drafting your essay.
  • Topic proposals are optional and I've extended the deadline. So if you'd like feedback on your work, please hand in the proposal no later than Friday 2 May. (You may hand in beforehand if you like, and I will reply to them in the order they come in. 
  • The first draft of the essay is due Monday 5 May in Class.
  • Bring in a revised draft (3 copies) for peer review on Wed 7 May. 
  • Final revised versions of the essay (with peer reviewd drafts and any instructor comments attached) are due Monday 12 May. This is a drop dead deadline and cannot be extended (grades are due immediately after) so be sure that you are prepared to meet your due date.
  • Your portfolio and cover letter are also due Fri May 12, no exceptions.

Today, We discussed the upcoming final essay and students free wrote about potential topics. Most students at this point intend to engage the spatial analysis assignment and some want to approach the topic creatively, as we did in the "Pratt as Invisible City" assignment from last week.

While I'm open to creative approaches, I must first see and approve a written proposal of the idea (see assignment for proposal below), which outlines your approach and details its form and the way your texts will be utilized. And any approach must include some critical spatial analysis as well (as outlined in the assignment prompt).  

Some possible alternative/ creative approaches  to the final essay assignment--
  • alternating Invisible City-type narratives (like those we did last week) with more academic site analyses, pairing these forms as dual approaches to the same space. The critical analysis could  engage the poetics of space that each vignette introduces, while simultaneously employing  the theory of writers like de Certeau to develop an interpretation of space.
  • creating a "walking poem" of the neighborhood: an embodied account of the walker's experiential drift, justaposed alongside a straighforward anthropological spatial analysis.
  •  create an "alternative"  guidebook  akin to  artist Rober Smithson's "A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, NJ", but further making use of our critical material to analyze the tour itself.
  • Kara asked about focusing on Kimsooja--"Needlewoman"-- as a subject for analysis, which seems particularly suggestive for this kind of reading.
  • The Cruise and Style Wars (so long as they weren't the subject of your analysis in the last essay) can also work as the subject of an analytic, critically informed essay.
  •  The documentary "80 blocks from Tiffany's" if you haven't seen it is a fascinating view a particular time and space in the city and could be used as the basis for an analytic essay (though we've not viewed or discussed it in class).
  • A kind of perfoemance, art installation, or intervention is

We also discussed the possibility of including images, rubbings, artifacts, and other spatial "captures" in the spatial analysis as a way to add dimension and creativity to the essay form.

I'm open to other approaches to these essays, creative ones in the mode of Calvino or some other relevant approach to the topic, so long as you also include your secondary texts and employ their concepts for the purpose of engaged critical analysis.

If you have an approach you'd like to use, it must first be approved--so please make sure to submit  topic proposal to that end.



Final Portfolio / Cover letter

Along with your final essay, you must hand in a portfolio of work for your final grade. The portfolio should include the following

  •  Major essay #1 (please hand in instructor graded version with comments and grade attached.)
  • Revision of Major essay #1 if desired: You may submit any of your work over the semester for a revised grade (an average of the two). However, all revisions must be SUBSTANTIAL and show that you have read and responded to my comments in your revision. You must include a detailed revision letter if you do so, outline the specific revisions made and your rationale for making them. Assess your revisions in relation to the original and assess your grade based on the rubric breakdown handed out in class.
  • Three examples (revised or original) of your strongest work over the semester so far, as well as a work sample that seems less successful.
  • Write a two-three page reflection letter that analyzes your work--your major essays and revisions, shorter responses and your least successful work sample--and makes an argument that appraises your work in the class and use the rubric to make an argument for receiving the course grade that you believe you deserve. 
  • In your portfolio cover letter, your argument should be centered on your understanding of your learning over the semester, your progress as a student, and your contribution to this class. Refer to the course syllabus for relevant guidelines for assessment. You must support your argument by supporting it with specific evidence from your work. 
  •  Attach a break down of the grade according to the rubric I'll provide and add any other categories not included in the rubric that you think you should be further basis for assessment.
  • Failure to include the portfolio cover letter will result in a grade deduction of 10 percent. This is your opportunity to convince me how wonderful and knowledgeable you are (with in reason). It's a missed opportunity (and now a penalty) to neglect to do so.
Please turn in the entirety no later than class on Monday 12 May. Portfolios cannot be accepted late due to grade turn in deadlines, but you may turn them in early to my mailbox--second floor dekalb hall. However, you MUST NOTIFY me if you do so, otherwise I will not know to check the mailroom. 

Adieu  Adieu And you and you and you

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Professor Sacha Frey
Essay #2 Assignment

Their story begins on ground level, with footsteps; They are myriad, but do not compose a series. They cannot be counted because each unit has a qualitative character: a style of tactile apprehension and kinesthetic appropriation. . . . Their intertwined paths give their shape to spaces. They weave places together. In that respect, pedestrian movements are one of these "real systems whose existence in fact makes up the city.” They are not localized; it is rather they that spatialize” (97).

The long poem of walking manipulates spatial organizations, no matter how panoptic they may be: it is neither foreign to them (it can take place only within them) nor in conformity with them (it does not receive its identity from them). It creates shadows and ambiguities within them. It inserts its multitudinous references and citations into them (social models, cultural mores, personal factors). (101)--de Certeau, “Walking in the City
Draft Due: Monday 5 April
Final Version Due: Mon 12 May
Format: 7 pages double spaced, 12 pt times new roman font, 1“ margins

Pick ONE of the following to options for your project. Remember, whether you are analyzing a subway station or an artwork, the substance of your project should consist of a deeply engaged close reading of your topic.

1.     Textual Analysis:  For this option, you should choose one of our primary texts (Italo Calvino, Style Wars, The Cruise, Building Stories) and analyze how the body functions in the work as a site of spatial inquiry and/or production (e.g., as a mode of knowing, making, or interrogating space, among others).  You should use at least two of the theoretical texts we have read in class to help you to make your argument and employ at least 5 fairly distinct references from a combination of both texts. You may also approach this from the point of Bachelard.

2.     Spatial Analysis: For this option you will  “read” a particular section of NYC, using at least 5 key terms from two or more of our theoretical texts. Please pick a relatively dense block or part of the city, so that you can observe a diversity of spatial practitioners and a multiplicity of practices. You should also consider the way that these practices interact with the specific places and objects in which they occur. Think specifically about how people move in or through your chosen area(s), making space (or codifying place) as they do so.  SEE p2 for detailed directions on this option & note that multiple observations are required.

N.B. Consider that the term “walking,” as de Certeau defines it in “Walking in the City,” is a basic spatial practice: therefore, his assertions about walking can be extended logically to be mean most “everyday” use of space.

Primary Texts: Italo Calvino/ Style Wars/ / Building Stories/ city as text
Secondary Texts: Foucault “Docile Bodies” de Certeau “Spatial Stories” & “Walking in the City,” Bachelard “Poetics of Space”

Some themes/ideas to explore: Walking as art, as writing, as pilgrimage, as protest / Walking as spiritual, as mundane / Walking as constituting boundaries, as transgressing boundaries / Walking as deeply personal, as emphatically public / Walking as touring, as witnessing / Walking as practical, as impractical / Walking as compliance, as defiance / Walking as seeing, as being seen / Walking as traditional, as revolutionary / Walking as wild, as mediated, as constructed / Walking as an interpretive act, a generative act, an embodied act / Walking as differentiating space, as consolidating space / Walking in space and time, connecting space, connecting time

Guidelines for Spatial Analysis

Reading NYC
This option is an adventure in urban anthropology. Using what you have learned from the text of Michel de Certeau, Foucault, Bachelard, etc., you will write a 6-7-page paper that reads a specific area of public space in New York City. Your paper must be prefaced with the specification of this locale in the following format:

AREA AS TEXT: The 300 block of Broadway between Franklin and Leonard Streets.
Day(s) and time(s) of observation period: Saturday 6 December, 2-4.30 p.m.; Tuesday 9 December  2-4:30 p.m

Designate the precise geographical limits of your locale.

You will be graded on creativity, clarity, the structure of your argument, formal execution and the degree to which you successfully integrate concepts we have dealt with in our critical and artistic texts. Form matters:  you will be graded down for the failure to conform to the rules of paper presentation outlined during the course.

Do not employ first person. Use "the pedestrian" or some other appropriate third-person designation. This paper is not a narrative; it "reads" the space for its possibilities and suggestions, rather than recording your own inhabitation of the space.

Pay attention to spatial details and the way those details engage, suggest, enable or defy the human form. For instance, does a city street have a sidewalk that narrows in places? Must the pedestrians walk in single file, or are groupings of people possible? Do not simply describe what happened to you when you went shopping on Broadway: "I saw a mime. He tried to rob me. There is a lot of crime in downtown Manhattan." If you notice a flock of mimes, explain how this is possible: does the city require a permit, or are they illicit mimes? Is this a spontaneous gathering encouraged by the space?

Arrange the details of your analysis so they reflect a theme. This should be done through the use of topic sentences (subclaims) for each paragraph. For instance, an excessive amount of policemen, emergency phones, walls, etc. may suggest the theme of authority or modes of confinement. Are there discontinuities--are the walls low, and do they "encourage" trespass? (And how "low" is "low"?: Give specific descriptions—a 5 foot wall is different from a 2 foot one, especially if you are a small child—which would raise the question of whether the area is designed for adults or children.) Reflect on this theme in your conclusion.

Examples of things to look for and at:
·       Street signs and other modes of spatial organization
·       Inhabitants--different genres or categories thereof (note how these categories are established)
·       The "texture" of the space: rigid (is there a "You are here" sign?), fluid; the "mistakes," or "abuses" of space (perhaps the space invites play--and if so how?)
·       How bodies are imagined to inhabit that space (park benches or tables versus single-seating chairs; bus stops). Is there a designated "guide" to the space, such as a map? Does the space encourage wandering, or does it restrict this activity? Are clues provided as to the "optimum" intended inhabitant (joggers [a marked lane on a walking path], unaccompanied pedestrians [emergency phones], etc.)?
·       Take account of how the time and day of observation may reflect the conclusions. For instance, the conclusion that a block in the financial district downtown is deserted may have to do with the fact that the observation was conducted at 3 p.m. on a Sunday. Try to time your observation so that it accords with the space's maximum usage. If this is not possible, frame your findings with the recognition of that caveat.

Notice everything, take nothing for granted, and make notes.

Do not conduct any of your research late at night; do not endanger yourself or others; and do not participate in any illegal activities. You are a scholar, but/and you must remain, or for the purposes of this class at least impersonate, a good citizen.

Deadlines & Details

You will be required to complete one preliminary assignment in order to help you to develop your ideas and get feedback from your peers before completing your final draft. If you would like feedback from me, you must make an appointment to talk to me outside of class. You may submit a topic proposal for instructor feedback by Wed April 30. Failure to complete any of the preliminary required assignments, or the revision letter as detailed here will result in one grade deduction on the final essay (e.g., from a B+ to a B).

Topic Proposal (optional)

1 page single spaced
1 Copy
Via email: No later than Wed 30 April
Work in Progress for Peer Critique

2 copies
In Class: Mon 5 May

Final Draft

6-7pp + works cited page (+cover letter)
1 Copy
In Class Mon 12 May—hard copy, cover letter (reflection), drafts, peer review. Post to blog and send digital copy for archiving.
Essays will not be accepted late. One grade deduction per day late (i.e. an A to an A-)

Your topic proposal should state:
à       What text you will be discussing in your essay and your rationale for choosing the text. If you will be analyzing a particular space, please specify the location and parameters of your area and your rationale for choosing the space.
à       What theoretical text(s) you will be using and what key concepts from that/those text(s) you will use to frame your analysis / inquiry
à       What critical question(s) your project will address: list at least three specific, substantive questions
à       What key concepts from your secondary texts do you intend to use to frame your discussion.
à       What aspects of the work(s)/space you will be focusing on in your analysis/project.
à       A working claim.

In Class Work / Wed 4. 23

:10 discuss Invisible Cities Responses (pair / share)--What did you learn about Pratt as Invisible City from your partner's writing/ images?

:10 discuss essay prompt. Textual / spatial analysis

:20 break up into small groups and outline Bachelard's central arguments (jigsaw)

Group 1: Section 1

Group 2: Section 2&3

Group 3: Section 4

Group 4: Section 5

: 20 Each member takes notes and reports back to group. Post to blog after class

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Tour of Pratt as Invisible City: Representing Embodied Spatial Experience

A Tour of Pratt as Invisible City

What would Pratt look like if it were one of Calvino’s Invisible Cities?
  1. What would it be called?  How would you describe it?
  2. Take a 20 minute tour of campus or an area on or around campus.
  3. Take at least 10 photos that capture the tour of your Invisible City.
  4. Consider other ways of documenting the “invisible” and use those where applicable.
  5. Take notes about the features of that “city” and give your tour of Pratt a title that is based on Calvino's cities.
  6. Return to the Classroom and discuss.
  7. Rewrite in Calvino-style language and incorporate your photos (and any other spatial documentation you’ve captured)
  8. Create at least two "versions" of Pratt as Invisible City using two different categories from Calvino. Collect and integrate necessary documentation.
  9. Post to your blog by Monday 4.21.14

Monday, April 14, 2014


Please begin reading Bachelard's section on houses from The Poetics of Space, available here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Due in CLASS Monday: 4. 14. 14

READING DUE: Finish reading Calvinio's Invisible Cities.

WRITING DUE: Write a two-page response that develops (or rewrites) your answer to the question that we discussed in class today:

How does Calvino's Invisible Cities relate to de Certeau's "Walking in the City"? Pick at least two cities to discuss and analyze (through close reading) in your answer. Feel free to talk about the Kubla Kahn and Marco Polo dialogues as needed.

  • Remember that a CLOSE READING is a reading that is deeply engaged in the details and the language of the text. It relies on your ability to find and present relevant quotes and patterns, but also significantly on your ability to ANALYZE those quotes and show how they support your INTERPRETATION.

  • ANALYSIS is not the same as paraphrasing or saying something in your own words: Analysis is a way of breaking down things into smaller parts in order to tease out a more nuanced interpretation of something. To analyze a quotation, therefore, you must talk about certain "smaller parts" of the quote that help you to develop your interpretation: for instance,  a particular word or pattern of words, a certain pattern of diction or repetition of language, sentence structure, sentence length, internal or external references. 

  • STRONG ANALYSIS draws on relevant CONCEPTUAL frameworks to make meaning of these smaller elements in relation to the larger whole. This is where de Certeau's theoretical language can becomes useful: it provides a framework for analysis that enables you to push your interpretations beyond the obvious and create a compelling argument about what it means. As we discussed in class today, for instance, Marco Polo's narrative conveys a sense of urban space as "poetic geography"  (de Certeau 105)--as comprised of ellipses, memory, traces, delinquencies enunciated by the everyday spatial practices of its inhabitants.  

  • STRONG ANALYSIS relies on strong critical questions: Analysis comes in the exploration of meaning as you try to answer strong critical questions. If you begin knowing the answer, analysis will fall flat and will come across as uninspired and uninteresting. 
Next week we will work on the walking photo/ walk  assignment that I introduced at the end of class.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Invisible Cities

Continue Reading Invisible Cities--at least through and including section 3. 

As you read, consider the "ageographical" elements of space that are evoked in the book. What features of space does Calvino consider in the various cities Polo narrates? Pick at a city to focus on and consider the defining features of the city according to its description. What facets of urban space does it suggest are important? How do travel and movement function in this definition of space?

Consider the following questions as you read

  1.      How would you characterize the structure of Calvino’s Invisible Cities?Does it seem to fit into your definition of a “novel”? Why or why not?   Describe its form and consider the way it develops our understanding of urban space.

  1. The cities Marco Polo describes fall into eleven categories (e.g. “Cities and Memory,” “Cities and Desire”). How are these categories reflected in their descriptions? What connections can you make between cities that fall under the same category?

  •       A dialogue (between Polo and Kublai Khan) begins and ends each section. How do they function in the work? How do they frame and/or inform each section?

  •                 Do the cities Polo describes have a temporal or spatial locus? How does this inform your reading of the cities?

  •    In his description of “Olivia,” one of the “Cities and Signs,” Polo says a city should never be “confused with the words that describe it” even though there may be a connection between the two (61). How would you interpret this statement, and how does this inform your reading?

  •    Polo says, “[c]ities, like dreams are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspective deceitful, and everything conceals something else” (44).  How does this inform your understanding of cities, in general, and Polo’s concept of the city specifically?

  •     Calvino summarized Invisible Cities as a book that offers more questions than solutions. He also maintains, in his essay “Exactitude” that it is the book

in which I managed to say most . . . because I was able to concentrate all my reflections, experiments, and conjectures on a single symbol [the city]; and also because I built up a many faceted structure in which each brief text is close to the others in a series that does not imply logical sequence or a hierarchy, but a network in which one can follow multiple routes and draw multiple, ramified conclusions. (103)

What kinds of questions does the book raise for you and what networks of connections  and conclusions can you draw from its texts?

  •         What connections can you make between any of the work we've looked at in class so far? Be specific.