Graduate Seminar: City of Memory
Lauren Kroiz, Andrew Shanken
Our cities are layered with pasts. Street names celebrate lost leaders and buildings provide tangible links to history. Monuments memorialize traumas that are also written on to the bodies of urban inhabitants. A palimpsest of destruction speaks to things that resist modern amnesia. How does the city inspire practices of remembering and forgetting? Whose past do we encounter and whose do we search for? How do we envision and shape ourselves as we destroy and preserve, create, recreate, and revive the city?
In this seminar we will explore theories of the city and built environment with a focus on memory. Considering the combined civic and aesthetic functions of urban spaces, we will examine topics ranging from collective memory to architectural revival and preservation, from historic parks to modes of commemoration enacted in temporary artistic forms.
The course will give students the opportunity to read widely across fields that link history, memory studies, and the built environment from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. Texts may include John Ruskin on ruins, Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc on architectural preservation, Alois Riegl on conservation, Walter Benjamin on history, Henri Lefebvre on our right to the city, Paul Ricoeur on forgetting, Fredric Jameson and Svetlana Boym on nostalgia. We will also explore other ways of recalling a city’s past, including films and novels. Local sites will be both quarry and testing ground for our theoretical investigations. We may visit and study a variety of sites throughout the Bay Area, including San Francisco’s Holocaust Memorial by George Segal in Legion of Honor Park and National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park, as well as Richmond’s Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park and Berkeley’s People’s Park.