[Msa-discuss] MSA 2018 CFP: The Graphic City — Urban Studies After The Visual Turn

Josh Schneiderman josh.schneiderman at gmail.com
Mon Apr 2 16:23:50 EDT 2018

MSA 2018 CFP: The Graphic City — Urban Studies After The Visual Turn

…From the rear platform of a fast ‘El’ train,
I watched the city’s undulating lights
And felt about my heart the antique pain
That man has always felt for beauty’s signs.
And often I was wildly moved to test
Myself against the city’s gleaming lines,
To feel their edges touch my bare brown breast!

—from “Song of New York” by Claude McKay (1926)

Architectural historian M. Christine Boyer believes that the aesthetic
appreciation of urban life shifts decisively during the late nineteenth
century, from a model best understood through the logic of the picture
frame to the “City as Panorama…a series of fleeting impressions and
momentary encounters.” Boyer is hardly the first to argue that something
decisive happens to the visual experience of the city during the modernist
period. And yet, despite a strong sense that these “impressions and
encounters” were conditioned by technological spectacle and restricted
lines of sight, there have been few attempts to reconcile the hoary
analyses of “modernism and the city” with recent developments in theorizing
visual culture. This panel has been organized to bridge the divide,
encouraging proposals from literary critics and culture studies scholars
who are exploring the visuality of the city across a variety of modes and
forms throughout the twentieth century. Like McKay’s poem suggests, there
is much to be learned from testing our analyses “against the city’s
gleaming lines.”

One recent example that may help clarify our aims: Adrienne Brown, in *The
Black Skyscraper *(JHU Press, 2017), identifies a trend in speculative
fiction from the early twentieth century of depicting white time travelers
gazing down from the windows of a skyscraper to see a horde of dark people.
In doing so, Brown argues, the skyscraper functions as a “physical shelter
for [their] white protagonists while sustaining the possibility of racial
identification in even the most trying times.”

Please send 150-word proposals to Josh Schneiderman (
jschneiderman1 at gradcenter.cuny.edu) and David B. Hobbs (dbh269 at nyu.edu) by
April 6th. Thanks!
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