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Level 5

5AAFF254 Modernity and the City

Credit value: 15 credits
Module tutor:  Dr James Wishart 
 Assessed coursework of 1500-2000 words worth 25% submitted during the semester and a 2 hour exam (75%) at the end of the module.
Teaching pattern: Two classes per week (a lecture and a seminar).
Re-assessment: all re-assessment for this module will take the form of coursework.

This module will introduce students to thinking about modernity through the study of French representations of, and responses to, the city. We will examine literary and visual constructions of urban space, which raise questions about the nature of modern experience and allow us to discuss, among other themes: technology and speed, consumption and spectacle, the relationship between the individual and the crowd, centre and periphery and the geography of exclusion, the figure of the flâneur.

For those students without a knowledge of French the material can be studied in English translation.

Educational aims and objectives

  • To familiarise students with a number of key French texts of the late 19th and early twentieth century.
  • To introduce students to some theoretical writing about modernity.
  • To introduce students to the study of visual art and film alongside literary texts.
  • To develop students’ understanding of various genres and modes of representation through the focus of the city.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, the students will be able to demonstrate intellectual, transferable and practicable skills appropriate to a Level 5/module and in particular will be able to demonstrate:

  • Detailed knowledge of the prescribed material
  • An understanding of questions at stake in the definition of modernity.
  • An ability to analyse literary texts and visual material in relation to the key themes of the course.

Core texts/films

Unless otherwise stated, students are expected to buy their own copy of all core texts.

  • Georg Simmel ‘The Metropolis and Mental Life’ (to be provided online)
  • Charles Baudelaire: selections from Les Fleurs du mal and Le Spleen de Paris (to be provided online).
  • Emile Zola, Au Bonheur des dames/The Ladies' Paradise (any edition)
  • Marcel Carné (dir.) Hôtel du Nord (screening will be arranged)
  • A selection of paintings (slide-show to be provided online)
  • Guillaume Apollinaire, selections from Alcools (to be provided online)
  • Louis Aragon Le Paysan de Paris/Paris Peasant (any edition).

You will need to buy copies of Au Bonheur des dames and Le Paysan de Paris. All other material will be provided. Students on French programmes (including EIS French pathway) must read the set texts in the original French. The works will be studied in the order listed here. 

The modules run in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand so there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary depending between years.




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