NeMLA 2016: Writing and Criticism of Urban Literature and Urban Spaces after Jane Jacobs (abstract deadline: Sept. 30

full name / name of organization: 
Nathaniel Hodes (Brandeis University) and Daniela Kukrechtova (Emerson College)

This panel session invites papers that update the critical conversation surrounding city writing through more self-conscious attention to Jane Jacobs or her urban studies legacy. Since The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jacobs has become known as one of the preeminent theorists of city planning and urban economics. Her concepts of organic city development, communal diversity, anti-utopianism, sidewalk ebb and flow, and self-regulating neighborhoods have entered the bloodstream of her intellectual descendants as well as her committed readers who care about cities and have been assimilated into contemporary American culture. However, there is little acknowledgment or examination of the role that her foundational concepts, ideas, and observations about the urban experience have played in literary representations of cities and on the way we read about, think about, and experience cities. Recent trends in literary criticism concerned with urban literature unconsciously reflect both the direct and indirect influence of Jacobs's theories but have yet to articulate that lineage of thought.

We welcome papers that apply well-established techniques and tropes of literary criticism to analyze literature in, from, or about the city but that reconsider these tools from the post-Jacobs perspective (for example, reorienting Benjamin's modern figure of the flâneur to Jacobs's conception of the life of sidewalks). Although such studies would most obviously apply to North American fiction of the late-20th and 21st centuries, we would also consider papers that engage pre-Modern or global cityscapes in the positive spirit of Jacobs, who promoted the importance of people for cities and promoted cities as real functioning places. We are also interested in literary critiques of the genre of non-fiction urban writing that Jacobs pioneered, which challenges the boundaries of journalism and social activism.

The 47th Annual Convention will take place in Hartford, CT, March 17-20, 2016. NeMLA requires submission of all abstracts (300 words maximum) through its site, rather than through email, by September 30, 2015. This panel is session ID# 15939: