Brief Course Description

The city is a characteristically modern phenomenon, but one that has roots in the geography, ecology, and culture of the ancient world. The Mediterranean basin has been  home to important urban centers for several thousand years. This course will visit four European cities that reached the height of their influence in successive periods of European history (Rome, Florence, Lyon, and Paris). Students will look at literature and art produced during these periods, as well as examine the physical facts of the cities themselves, investigating the streets, buildings, squares, parks, and moments that are the focus of these works. We will ask: How have writers and artists responded to city life in these contexts? And, based on their works and our own investigations, how does the built environment of these cities affect our relationships to ourselves, to each other, and to the natural world? Using these cities as both texts and contexts, we will investigate their ethics of the self in the city.