Urban Planning in the Romantic Era

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Special Session on Urban Planning in the Romantic Era/ ICR 2009 Conference, NYC
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Proposed Special Session for the International Conference on Romanticism, Annual Conference, New York, NY, Nov. 5-9, 2009

Urban Planning in the Romantic Era

Urban planning would not constitute itself as a distinct profession until the twentieth century, and in many ways the emergence of that profession reflects the felt need to redress the conditions of nineteenth-century cities. Manchester—the representative instance of urban life in an industrial age—almost completely lacked civic government during its explosive growth from the late-eighteenth to mid-nineteenth century. In addition to Manchester's squalor and crowds, Friedrich Engels's Condition of the Working Class in England famously remarks upon the city's paradoxical lack of planning and the nonetheless observable seclusion of the working classes to slums out of sight of the middle class. Meanwhile, the romantic era also witnessed astonishingly diverse attempts to plan, organize, and regulate urban spaces. Architects, bureaucrats, social and moral reformers, utopian dreamers, and hucksters imagined myriad plans to create and improve urban spaces. Their plans included projected ideal towns and communities at home and abroad, as well as ambitious civic improvement projects for residential expansions, parks, cultural institutions, and monuments.

This panel invites proposals for papers that consider urban planning as practiced, represented, and inflected by romantic-era texts and images. What role does planning play in romantic aesthetics, or conversely how do romantic texts influence subsequent urban planning? Might planning offer a site for rethinking the relation between the abstractions of theory and the specificity of historicism? How did planners imagine alternatives to the conditions of contemporary urban spaces? What relations might be traced between the visual arts and the attempt to envision urban growth in maps, diagrams, and models? How do romantic texts represent, meditate, or comment upon the range of options for managing urban growth, varying from complex designs like James Craig's 1767 plans for Edinburgh's New Town to instances of largely self-organizing urban spaces like Manchester? How did plans for suburban development, including towns and villages, re-imagine the countryside and wilderness? What are the legacies of failed plans such as Robert Owen's New Harmony, Coleridge and Southey's Pantisocracy, or George Ripley's Brook Farm? To what extent do literary texts represent planning as a sister art?

This panel welcomes interdisciplinary and Trans-Atlantic proposals. Please send proposals of 500 words or less to Sean Barry, sean.barry@rutgers.edu, and John Savarese, john.savarese@rutgers.edu. Be sure to also e-mail a copy to icrnyc@ccny.cuny.edu, indicating that you have submitted your proposal to this session. The deadline for submission is May 1, 2009.