In this course we will walk alongside narrators and characters as they wander city streets leading through New York, Calcutta, London, Brussels, Los Angeles, and Lagos. We will focus on everyday explorations that open onto some of the most pressing issues in contemporary literature: terrorism and drone warfare, climate change and superstorms, national belonging in the face of shifting borders, identities marked by legacies of slavery and colonization. Course participants will consider not only how protagonists peel back these fascinating layers of urban and national history, but also how contemporary authors self-consciously reach back to literary techniques that were championed by an earlier generation of modernist writers. In addition to writing analytical papers, students will have the option to explore the city streets of Boston/Cambridge and to subsequently produce their own creative writing, as part of our collective effort to understand what it means to write fiction – right now.
Primary texts will include Amit Chaudhuri’s A New World, Teju Cole’s Open City, Ian McEwan’s Saturday, Karen Yamashita’s Tropic of Orange, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, and Ben Lerner’s 10:04.