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Notes Towards Day 3 (Tuesday, 9/10): Rendering One Another

Anne Dalke's picture

I. Introductions: tell the person on your left your name and
a noun you use to describe "the city." Listen to the person
on your right tell you hers.
Go 'round and introduce your neighbor to the rest of us,
in a single sentence w/ her name and what she says "the city" is.
Listen carefully--because then we'll reverse!

any feedback
about using Serendip this weekend?
trouble loading pictures (a couple of you didn't/couldn't? do this), printing copies to mark, etc?
please DO NOT tag your papers "Dalke course notes"...
what was it like, writing these first papers??

Bryn Thompson,
Admin. Ass't in English House, will collect your $35
contribution to our travel costs--bring her a check or cash (no change!)

II. Let's get right to talking about them: gather into your writing clusters
“Render,” out loud, what had heat, for you, in your classmates’ essays.
Listen carefully to what your classmates have distilled from your writing.
Then talk: what did you hear? Were you surprised @ what caught their attention?
Did they foreground what you thought background?
Or neglect what you thought important?
What is different about the two renderings you got?
What sense might you make in/of that gap?

(11:50): This feedback should be of use to you, as you return to writing
(a different essay, about our upcoming trip into Philly) this weekend.
Based on the experience you just had, what might you take as a goal
for your next piece of writing? What might you work on?
(take a few moments to write this down...)

Mark and I have done the same sort of marking for all of you—and explained why;
will hand out these notes @ the end of class.

III. (Noon) Let's come back into the large group now:
How are our stories of the city alike/different/predictable/surprising?
where did you hear others' stories intersecting w/ or diverging from your own?
where are the overlaps, where the disjunctures among our experiences?

How are they like/different from Simmel?
sked you to come w/ a sentence, phrase, word and your word,
rendered from his text: let's read those aloud,
as a way of making him present among us--and extracting from him
what we found most engaging....

What is his argument?
What might he have to say to Mumford and Zukin?
[Mumford on cities as social theater; Zukin on the tension between
the "cultures" of authenticity and homogenization]
(How do Mumford's ideas accord w/ our own experience of cities?)

What have we learned about cities, from these 3 readings?
What do we think about these claims?
What happens when we lay them alongside our own stories?
(For example: why would you want to engage in theater, rather than in life?
What experience do you have of the authentic and its loss? (What signals this?)
What role has the city played in your mental life?)

What does this collection of essays have to do w/ your own experiences?
What do you have to "say back" to them?
(What did you say back to them, in your essays?)

IV. (12:40, to close) this is the conventional academic mode: to "doubt" what is said.
We're going to try a different kind of reading for Thursday. Your assignment
is two essays, one that appeared 4 years ago in the NYTimes, about Taking Play Seriously,
and another that just appeared last month in an on-line business newsletter,
by Cass Sunstein (a legal scholar interested in behavioural economics),
about the "architecture of serendipity."

Read both, continuing to underline the passages that have "heat" and "energy" for you
--do this w/ everything we/other profs give you, from now on...

But then go back and find a single paragraph that you want to spend some more time with--
to listen to and hear. Not to argue w/, or doubt or question, but rather to carefully attend
to the contours of what has been said. COPY OUT THIS PARAGRAPH IN YOUR OWN HAND,
and bring that copy with you to class.

From Walter Benjamin's Reflections-- "One-Way Street":

"The power of a country road is different when one is walking along it from when one is flying over it by airplane. In the same way, the power of a text is different when it is read from when it is copied out. The airplane passenger sees only how the road pushes through the landscape, how it unfolds according to the same laws as the terrain surrounding it. Only he who walks the road on foot learns of the power it commands, and of how, from the very scenery that for the flier is only the unfurled plain, it calls forth distances, belvederes, clearings, prospects at each of its turns like a commander deploying soldiers at a front. Only the copied text thus commands the soul of him who is occupied with it, whereas the mere reader never discovers the new aspects of his inner self that are opened by the text, that road cut through the interior jungle forever closing behind it: because the reader follows the movement of his mind in the free flight of daydreaming, whereas the copier submits it to command. The Chinese practice of copying books was thus an incomparable guarantee of literary culture, and the transcipt a key to China's enigmas (66).

Also, by Wednesday @ midnight, make a second short posting--of a story or
reflection that occurred to you while reading Henig and Sunstein.

Reading notes from Simmel:

deepest problem of modern life: maintaining independence, individuality
metropolis intensifies emotional life, creates sensory foundations of mental life
intellectualistic quality a protection against domination of the metropolis
psychic phenomenon of the city: the blasé outlook
(incapacity to reaction to new stimulations/
indifference to meaning of distinctions between things)
mental attitude of people of the metropolis: reserve/suspicion
aversion, strangeness, repulsion, distantiation, deflection assures personal freedom
mutual reserve and indifference significant in independence of individual
obverse of freedom: loneliness, desertion—freedom is not only pleasant
most significant aspect of metropolis: functional magnitude beyond actual physical foundaries—
embraces totality of meaningful effects
essential characteristic of freedom: particularity, incomparability actually expressed, laws of inner nature become perceptible, distinguished from others as irreplaceable
cities seat of advanced economic division of labour
necessity to specialize->
conducive to differentiation, refinement, enrichment->
narrower mental individuation-> making oneself noticeable
value of the metropolis: individual independence and elaboration of personal peculiarities
unique place for development of the mental life--
don’t complain, condone but only understand!