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Urban Formalism: The Work of City Reading

Urban Formalism: The Work of City Reading

by David Faflik


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Urban Formalism radically reimagines what it meant to “read” a brave new urban world during the transformative middle decades of the nineteenth century. At a time when contemporaries in the twin capitals of modernity in the West, New York and Paris, were learning to make sense of unfamiliar surroundings, city peoples increasingly looked to the experiential patterns, or forms, from their everyday lives in an attempt to translate urban experience into something they could more easily comprehend. Urban Formalism interrogates both the risks and rewards of an interpretive practice that depended on the mutual relation between urbanism and formalism, at a moment when the subjective experience of the city had reached unprecedented levels of complexity.

This book not only provides an original cultural history of forms. It posits a new form of urban history, comprising the representative rituals of interpretation that have helped give meaningful shape to metropolitan life.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780823287680
Publisher: Fordham University Press
Publication date: 04/07/2020
Series: Polis: Fordham Series in Urban Studies
Pages: 144
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

David Faflik is Professor of English at the University of Rhode Island. A specialist in nineteenth-century American literature and culture, he is the author of Boarding Out: Inhabiting the American Urban Literary Imagination, 1840–1860 (Northwestern University Press, 2012), Melville and the Question of Meaning (Routledge, 2018), and Transcendental Heresies: Harvard and the Modern American Practice of Unbelief (University of Massachusetts Press, 2020).

Table of Contents

Introduction | 1

1 Strong Reading, or the Literary Conversion of the Urban | 17

2 Reading the Urban Form of Fire | 46

3 The Revolutionary Formalism of France | 72

4 Photography and the Image of the City | 96

Afterword | 124

Acknowledgments | 127

Notes | 131

Bibliography | 149

Index | 179

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