The Polytechnic

Architecture Cybernetics Ecology Media Urbanism Research

MSc Urban Cultures

We have started teaching again for the second semester of the MSc Urban Cultures at the University of Westminster. It is the first year that these modules have been taught. This masters is based within the English Department, and is run by David Cunningham - although normally of course I am based in the Architecture Department. This year most of the students have come from a literature background, although in future years we are hoping to attract a more mixed crowd. The weekly reading is below… normally the seminars are supplemented with a fair bit of visual material. If you are interested in discussing joining the course, then contact me, or David Cunningham.


Module Leader: David Cunningham

Week One: Introduction (September 27)

Week Two: The Nineteenth-Century Street Scene (October

Charles Dickens, ‘Scenes’ in Sketches by Boz (London: Penguin, 1995)
Charles Baudelaire, ‘The Painter of Modern Life’ in The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays (London and New York: Phaidon, 1995)

Week Three: Metropolis and Modernity (October 11)

Georg Simmel, ‘Metropolis and Mental Life’ and ‘The Berlin Trade Exhibition’ in Simmel on Culture: Selected Writings (London: Sage, 1997)

Week Four: The Surreal City (October 18)

Louis Aragon, Paris Peasant (London: Picador, 1980)
Walter Benjamin, ‘Moscow’, ‘Surrealism’, ‘Marseilles’ and ‘The Return of the Flâneur’ in Selected Writings, Volume 2 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999)

Week Five: The Metropolis in Movement (October 25)

Our discussions will be based around the following two films:
Fritz Lang (dir.), Metropolis (1927)
Dziga Vertiov (dir.), The Man With the Movie Camera (1929)

Week Six: Reading Week

Week Seven: Urban Revolutions (November 8)

Henri Lefebvre, Writings on Cities (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996)
Ken Knabb (ed.), Selections by Ivan Chtcheglov and Guy Debord from Situationist International Anthology (Berkeley, CA: Bureau of Public Secrets, 1981)

Week Eight: Humanism and the Death of the ‘City’ (November 15)

Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1994)
Richard Sennett, Flesh and Stone (London: Faber & Faber, 1994)

Week Nine: Metropolis as Abstraction (November 22)

Massimo Cacciari, Architecture and Nihilism (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1993) [section one]
Massimo Cacciari, ‘Eupalinos or Architecture?’, in K. Michael Hays (ed.), Architecture Theory Since 1968 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998)

Week Ten: Delirious Metropolis (November 29)

Rem Koolhaas, Delirious New York (New York: Monacelli Press, 1994)
Rem Koolhaas, ‘Lagos’, in Francine Fort & Michel Jacques (eds), Mutations (Barcelona: ACTAR, 2001)
Fernando Meirelles & Katia Lund (dir.), City of God (2002)

Week Eleven: The City of Memories (December 6)

Selections from Iain Sinclair (ed.), London: City of Disappearances (London: Hamish Hamilton, 2006)
Patrick Keiller (dir.), London (1994)

Week Twelve: City of Money (December 13)

Mike Davis, ‘Sunshine or Noir?’ and ‘Fortress LA’ in City of Quartz (London and New York: Verso, 1992)
Fredric Jameson, ‘The Brick and the Balloon’ in The Cultural Turn (London & New York: Verso, 1998)

This module will also draw upon various visual materials, drawn from the visual arts and architecture, including the paintings of Manet (week two); expressionist art and architecture (week three); surrealist photography (week four); the architecture of Mies Van Der Rohe and Le Corbusier (week nine).


Module Leader: David Cunningham

Week One: Introduction (January 14)

Week Two: Capitalism, Culture and the Commodity (January 21)

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, ‘Bourgeois and Proletarians’ in The Communist Manifesto [any edition]
Karl Marx, Chapter One (‘The Commodity’) in Capital, Volume One [any edition]

Week Three: Abstraction and Reification (January 28)

Georg Simmel, ‘Money in Modern Culture’ and ‘Some Remarks on Prostitution’ in Simmel on Culture: Selected Writings (London: Sage, 1997) *
Georg Lukács, ‘The Phenomenon of Reification’ in History and Class Consciousness (London: Merlin Press, 1971)

Week Four: Capitalism and Mass Culture I (February 4)

Siegfried Kracauer, ‘The Mass Ornament’, ‘The Hotel Lobby’ and ‘Cult of Distraction’ in The Mass Ornament: Weimar Essays (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995) *
Walter Benjamin, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility’ in Selected Writings, Volume Three, 1935-1938 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002) *

Week Five: Capitalism and Mass Culture II (February 11)

Theodor Adorno, ‘On the Fetish Character in Music’, ‘The Schema of Mass Culture’ and ‘Free Time’ in The Culture Industry (London and New York: Routledge, 2001)
Theodor Adorno, ‘The Stars Down to Earth’ [Conclusion, pp. 152-166] and ‘Theses Against Occultism’ in The Stars Down to Earth (London and New York: Routledge, 2004) *

Week Six: Reading Week

Week Seven: Dreamworlds of Capitalism (February 28)

Walter Benjamin, Selections from The Arcades Project (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999) *
Susan Buck-Morss, ‘Preface’, Chapter 4 (‘Culture for the Masses’) and Chapter 5 (‘Dream and Awakening’) in Dreamworld and Catastrophe: The Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000)

Week Eight: Spectacle and Simulation (March 3)

Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle [any edition]
Jean Baudrillard, ‘Consumer Society’ and ‘Simulacra and Simulations’ in Selected Writings (Cambridge: Polity, 2001) *

Week Nine: Philosophies of Capital I (March 10)

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, ‘Introduction: Rhizome’, ‘7000 B.C.: Apparatus of Capture’ and ‘1440: The Smooth and the Striated’ in A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (London: Athlone, 1988)

Week Ten: Philosophies of Capital II (March 17)

Félix Guattari, ‘The Proliferation of Margins’ in Sylvère Lotringer & Christian Marazzi (eds.), Autonomia (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2007) *
Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, ‘Preface: Life in Common’ in Multitude (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000) *
Slavoj Zizek, ‘Introduction’ and ‘Politics: A Plea for Cultural Revolution’ in Organs Without Bodies: Deleuze and Consequences (London and New York: Routledge, 2003) *

Week Eleven: The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (to be scheduled)

Fredric Jameson, ‘Introduction’, ‘Culture’, ‘Economics’ and ‘Conclusion’ in Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (London & New York: Verso, 1990)
Fredric Jameson, ‘Culture and Finance Capital’ in The Cultural Turn (London & New York: Verso, 1998) *

Week Twelve: Art and Contemporary Capitalism (March 31)

Hal Foster, ‘The Art of Cynical Reason’ in The Return of the Real (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996) *
Peter Osborne, ‘Greedy Kunst’, in Mandy Merck & Chris Townsend (eds.), The Art of Tracey Emin (London: Thames & Hudson, 2002) *

Texts marked * will be provided as pdfs via Blackboard.

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