The Age of the City

History 134A

Fall 2016
Gabriel Milner
Hearst Mining 310
Day & Time: 
MWF 2-3P
  • This course satisfies the American Cultures Requirement.
  • This course examines the century of urban growth between 1825 and 1933, a period that witnessed the advent of big cities in the United States. With an emphasis on large metropolitan spaces (such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles), but also considering smaller ones (such as Boston, Pittsburg, and New Orleans), we will explore the ways that cities fostered unprecedented forms of personal interaction, popular culture, and class and social conflict. Elevated railroads, sports arenas, ethnic and “bohemian” enclaves, peep shows, taverns, skyscrapers, settlement houses, parks, parades, and other sites will illustrate the ways in which urban living was experienced and theorized. We will also explore a series of tensions centering on urban life: The city will be examined as a place of new, liberating opportunities, but also a strange environment that could elicit anxiety over the loss of traditional communal arrangements; a place of social, cultural, and economic diversity, but also of stratified lifestyles. But even as we trace common developments and experiences that informed life in big American cities, we will also explore how the city functioned within its region and within the nation at large, both in terms of economic and political developments and cultural configurations and trends. Indeed, a key theme of the course will be how common national or regional developments—such as war, economic depression, industrial capitalism, Jim Crow, and the advent of consumer culture—were uniquely experienced in an urban milieu.

    Course Books

    Miss Lonelyhearts & The Day of the Locust by Nathaniel West New Directions. ISBN: 978-0811218221 Required
    Civic Wars: Democracy and Public Life in the American City during the Nineteenth Century by Ryan, Mary University of California Press. ISBN: 978-0520216600 Required
    Amusing the Million by John F. Kasson Hill and Wang. ISBN: 978-0809001330 Required
    City of Plagues: Disease, Poverty, and Deviance in San Francisco by Susan Craddock University of Minnesota Press. ISBN: 978-0816630486 Required
    America Is In the Heart by Carlos Bulosan University of Washington Press. ISBN: 978-0295993539 Required
    Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight by Eric Avila University of California Press. ISBN: 978-0520248113 Required