Welcome to eng 101: Writing About Cities Instructor name: Molly Slavin Contact information

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Welcome to ENG 101: Writing About Cities

Instructor name: Molly Slavin

Contact information: mslavin@emory.edu

I strive to answer all emails within 24 hours; most times, I will answer more quickly than that, but sometimes (with travel, reduced availability, etc), it might take me 48.

Office hours: TBD

Class meeting time and place: TBD
Course description: Jane Jacobs (whom we’ll read in this class) once wrote, “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody” (The Death and Life of Great American Cities). Today, more than half of all people in the world live in cities; in America, that figure stands at more than 75%. It’s clear that cities, their composition, and their attributes are cultural issues well worth exploring, especially if cities should be, as Jacobs says, “created by everybody.” This course will examine what it means to exist in an American urban environment in the late 20th/early 21st century and will pay special attention to our environment, Atlanta.
In this class, we’ll be studying writing about cities in the hopes of developing a more complex understanding of what a city is, who lives there, what a city is meant to do, and what a city means in reality and in popular imagination. We will focus on historical, theoretical, and place-specific texts with a specific focus on our shared city woven throughout the course as a whole. As we read writings on and about cities, we’ll also be working on our own writing about cities, in the form of class assignments and activities (see below).
The following guiding questions will broadly define our class: What is a city? What are some of the city’s unique benefits and problems? How do cities exist in the popular imagination, especially with regards to race? How do theoretical decisions about planning and urban environments translate into reality? What key characteristics must be present for an area to be considered a city? How do we understand suburbs and urban sprawl? What “type” of city is our home, Atlanta? What historical, social, and political reasons go into making a city the way that it is? Did the American city undergo a fundamental shift in the 1960s and 70s, and how? Are we undergoing a fundamental shift today? Our discussions in class will center on these questions and others like them as they relate to the writings you are working on and the readings you have completed.
Learning outcomes: This is a composition course, and so it is writing intensive. I expect you not only to hone your writing skills but to also deepen your understanding of the central critical issues considered in the class. By the end of the semester, you should be able to:

  • Highlight key debates in our readings, articulate theoretical issues in the field, and identify debates and arguments in the study of urbanism and cities

  • Apply theories and historical issues to your own writing, debate, and analysis

  • Develop written work with a clearly defined focus, thesis, and argument and employ critical thinking and writing skills to articulate your thoughts

  • Communicate your thoughts eloquently through prose

  • Focus on a purpose and respond to the needs of different audiences

  • Respond appropriately to different kinds of rhetorical situations and use conventions of format and structure appropriate to the rhetorical situation

  • Understand how genres shape reading and writing and write in several genres

  • And develop an understanding of the revision process

Course texts: I will expect you to acquire some textbooks in this course, although many readings will be available online. The following is a list of texts, subdivided by format, which we will be discussing in this class. I will also put up a selected number of readings on Blackboard and we will watch some films and TV shows as a class which you may acquire either through Emory’s Music and Media Library, by rental or purchase, or from an online service such as Netflix or Amazon Video.
Print books:

  • Graff, Gerald, and Cathy Birkenstein. They Say, I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009.

  • Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Vintage, 1961.

  • Kruse, Kevin. White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007.

  • Wilson, William Julius. When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor. New York: Vintage, 1997.

Online sources:

  • The Atlantic magazine runs a website called The Atlantic Cities, which publishes excellent work on many aspects of urban life. These articles are free and we will read many of them. You will need to print them for class, rather than bring in your computer and read off the screen.

  • We will be reading a number of news articles from online sources such as The Huffington Post, Salon, The New York Times, etc. I will ensure that these are all free and open-access.

  • Selections from Robert Caro’s The Power Broker, Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities, and John A. Andrew III’s Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society will be made available on Blackboard. While these are excerpts from books, I will make them available to you for free, so there is no need to purchase them.

Films and Other Visual Media:

  • The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, 2011 (dir. Chad Friedrichs)

  • Taxi Driver, 1976 (dir. Martin Scorsese, starring Robert De Niro)

  • Selected episodes of the television show Friends

  • Boyz N The Hood, 1991 (dir. John Singleton)

We may watch other films in class, but the list above represents the films you are responsible for watching on your own time.

Academic honesty policy: Academic honesty and plagiarism is completely unacceptable. I am happy to meet with you individually to discuss this in more detail or if you have specific concerns. For a detailed explanation of Emory’s honor code and academic honesty policy, please see:
Disability policy: If you have a documented disability, Emory’s Office of Disability Services promises to be “diligent and intentional in our efforts to ensure access for faculty/staff, students, and visitors” (language from the ODS website). Please familiarize yourself with your rights and responsibilities in this area. The website for the Emory Office of Disability Studies is located here:
Attendance policy: Attendance is of the utmost importance in any college course, but especially in a writing-intensive and topic-cumulative class such as this one. Attendance and active participation will count for 10% of your grade; you will receive three excused absences before beginning to be docked for points. As there are always extenuating circumstances, crisis situations or extended illnesses will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
Revision policy: In this class, you will be allowed to revise up to two of your papers for a revised grade. We will discuss this more in detail as we approach the first assignment.
Writing Center information: The Emory Writing Center staff includes talented and welcoming undergraduate and graduate students from a range of disciplines. They are eager to work with all writers at all stages of the composing process. Whether you are exploring ideas, revising a draft, or polishing a final version of a project, the Writing Center is the place for you. They offer discussion- and workshop-based tutorials for individuals and groups that enable writers to approach their work with fresh eyes and to consider a variety of strategies for writing, revising, and editing.
All Writing Center tutors are trained to work with digital and multi-modal texts in addition to traditional papers. Tutors can talk with you about the purpose, organization, and audience of your work, your design choices, or how you engage other texts. They can also work with you on sentence-level concerns, including grammar, syntax, and word choice; however, they will not proofread for you. Instead, they will discuss strategies and resources you can use to become a better editor of your own work.
The Writing Center is located in Callaway N212. Regular appointments are 45 minutes long. You should bring a copy of your assignment, any relevant writing (notes, a draft, the url for your website, etc.), and a plan for what you want to work on. If you have a laptop, we encourage you to bring it, especially if you’re working on a digital text. If you are working on a traditional paper, please also bring a hard copy of your work. In addition to our regular appointments, we offer walk-in visits, a good resource when you have a quick question or can’t get an appointment. To view our hours, make an appointment, and get more information, go to writingcenter.emory.edu.
Assignments and Weights: This is a composition course, and so your writing will count for the vast majority of your grade. There will be five short papers throughout the course, all weighted equally. Attendance and participation will also count as part of your grade. I require all assignments to be handed to me in hard copy in class on the day that they are due.
The grading breakdown is as follows: 5 papers at 15% each, presentation at 15%, attendance 10%.

  • Paper 1/getting started: Your first paper will be a chance for you to start plying your oars in the field of collegiate writing. The prompt will ask you to disprove a certain position posed by a hypothetical family member (“Your aunt thinks cities are unsafe and that she needs apps on her phone to circumvent certain areas,” “Your uncle believes that cities have run their course,” etc). You will write a 2-4 page paper disproving this hypothetical family member, drawing in references from the texts we have read in class and using the tips given by They Say, I Say to help you formulate your paper. This paper will be 15% of your grade and will be due at the start of week 4.

  • MARTA narrative: As part of our transportation unit, I will ask you to ride a MARTA train and bus and write a narrative about your experience. This will be due in week 6, and will count for 15% of your grade. I expect this paper to be 3-5 pages. Some creative options will be available here.

  • Research paper: To be due in week 10. You will be asked to consider any of the topics we have discussed from weeks 5-9 and write a short (5-7 page) analytical research paper on how two of the topics are connected (the environment and employment, redlining and city planning, etc). We will discus this more as the time approaches.

  • Film analysis: In week 12, you will be required to turn in a 3-5 page film analysis on one of the movies we have watched in week 11. This assignment will be worth 15% of your final grade.

  • ATL Maps project/paper: atlmaps.com is an interactive website that allows users to create a map of his or her own Atlanta. Your final project in this class will be to create a map of your Atlanta using the website and to write a 3-5 page paper explaining your process. This will be due on the final day of the semester.

  • Presentation: On the first day of class, we will divvy up the units and topics and each student will choose one to present. These presentations will take place on Fridays throughout the semester and should focus on a new aspect of the issues we’ve been considering throughout the week, as well as present questions for discussion. You will be expected to complete one presentation that will count for 15% of your grade. Please see the separate assignment sheet for more information on this.

  • Attendance and participation: As stated above, attendance and participation is a very key component to this class. You will be allowed three excused absences; after that, your grade will begin to suffer. It is important, however, not only to show up, but also to participate in a meaningful way. While talking the most is not necessarily being the most engaged participant, it is important to show me that you are aware of what is going on around you and fully engaged in the discussion. Attendance and participation will count for 10% of your grade.

Grading Criteria for Papers:
An A paper will have a clear and articulate thesis that puts forth a strong argument. The body of the paper will be in line with the ideas proposed in the introduction and will include strong transitions and topic sentences. Ideas will be expressed coherently and connections between subjects will be clear and thoughtfully expressed. A conclusion that summarizes the main ideas and ends on a thoughtful note should also be included. The A paper will be virtually free of spelling and grammatical mistakes.
A B paper will have many of the same attributes as an A paper, although it will not be executed as cleanly. An introduction, body, and conclusion will all be present, although prose may feel “clunky” or ideas may feel poorly articulated or not completely thought out at times. The argument may at times be unclear or confusing. A B paper may miss opportunities to draw connections across areas and may be marred by a sizeable number of spelling and grammatical errors.
A C paper will have a weak or nonexistent thesis and bare or incomplete body paragraphs. Obvious connections may be made, but it will be clear the writer has not thought as deeply about the issues as the writers of A or B papers. The argument will be weak or obfuscated in a number of areas or overall. A conclusion may be missing or incomplete, and there may be a high number of spelling or grammatical errors.
A D paper will have a missing or extremely weak thesis. The argument may not be discernible or comprehensible, and connections and transitions will be at a minimum. The body paragraphs will not succeed in advancing the argument (if there is one to begin with), and the conclusion may be weak or missing altogether. A D paper may have a large number of spelling or grammatical errors.
A paper will receive an F if:

  • it is not turned in on time

  • it is off-topic or on an unapproved topic

  • it is completely incomprehensible

  • it includes no sources or is written as an unsubstantiated opinion

Calendar: Subject to change. Topics are cumulative and will build upon each other; do not expect to leave a topic behind just because its week is over. One week at the end of the semester has been left open; we may use this to revisit topics the class found especially engaging or to explore a new area the class as a whole wants to discuss in detail.
Week 1: Introductions and Historical Realities

Introductions and syllabus information


Graff and Birkenstein, They Say, I Say: Preface and Introduction

“Why Cities Matter,” Richard Florida, The Atlantic Cities website

Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities: Foreword to the Modern Library Edition, Introduction

Week 2: Historical Realities continued: Great Society, slum clearance, urban renewal and urban decay, gentrification, race, and the concept of safety

Part 1 of They Say, I Say

Three articles from The Atlantic Cities website (Emily Badger, “The Small, Often Imperceptible Reasons Some Neighborhoods Feel Safer Than Others;” Emily Badger, “Enough Already with the Avoid-the-Ghetto Apps;” Emily Badger, “You’re More Likely to Die a Violent Death in Rural America than in a City.”)

Blog Post on dog whistle political campaigning (http://racecardpoliticswatch.wordpress.com/about/)


p. 520-525 of The Power Broker (BB)

p. 963-968 of The Power Broker (BB)

John A. Andrew III, Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society: Chapter 4, “Model Cities” (BB)


“What is Gentrification?” Benjamin Grant, PBS website

watch The Atlanta Way in class
Week 3: High density vs. low density, suburbs and sprawl

Chapter 6 of Jane Jacobs, “The uses of city neighborhoods.”

Chapter 8 of Jane Jacobs, “The need for mixed primary uses.”

Chapter 10 of Jane Jacobs, “The need for concentration.”

*maybe divide these chapters up as sort of a practice run for presentations?

Part 2 of They Say, I Say

Kevin Kruse, White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism: Chapter 9, “Urban Separatism and Suburban Secession”

“U.S. Urban Population is Up… But What Does ‘Urban’ Really Mean?” Nate Berg, The Atlantic Cities website

Friday: Student presentations

Week 4: Transit (public and otherwise)

TransLoc article on the benefits of public transportation

APTA article on the benefits of public transportation

discussion on rhetorical situation


Emily Badger, “The U.S. Cities Where the Fewest Commuters Get to Work By Car,” The Atlantic Cities website;

Chapter 18 of Jane Jacobs, “Erosion of cities or attrition of automobiles”

p. 897-908 of The Power Broker (BB)

Friday: Student presentations
*Paper 1 due on Monday of week 4
Week 5: Housing and White Flight

discussion of The Pruitt-Igoe Myth


Emily Badger, “Mapping 60 Years of White Flight, Brain Drain, and American Migration,” The Atlantic Cities website

Chapter 3 of Kevin Krause, “From Community to Individuality: Race, Residence, and Segregationist Ideology,”

Epilogue of Kevin Krause, “The Legacies of White Flight”

Chapter 2 of the Kruse is recommended but not required
Friday: Student presentations
Week 6: Public Space, Parks, and Redlining

Chapter 5 of Jane Jacobs, “The uses of neighborhood parks”

Chapter 4 of Kevin Kruse, “The Abandonment of Public Space: Desegregation, Privatization, and the Tax Revolt.”

p. 509-512, 553-561, The Power Broker (BB)

William Julius Wilson, When Work Disappears, Chapter 2: “Societal Changes and Vulnerable Ghettoes.”
Friday: Student presentations
*MARTA narrative due on Friday of week 6

Week 7: City Planning, Downtown Revival, Historic Preservation

Lee Epstein, “How Augusta Got Locals to Care About City Planning,” The Atlantic Cities website

Jane Jacobs, “Downtown is for People” (1958 essay, available http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/janejacobsarticle.htm)

Zachary Karabell, “The Golden Age of American Cities – And What’s Really Behind It,” The Atlantic.

Longworth, Richard C. “Saving Chicago,” The Chicago Tribune.

Chapter 10 of Jane Jacobs, “The need for aged buildings”

“What is preservation?” section of the National Trust for Historic Preservation website.
Friday: Student presentations.
Week 8: Environment

Interview with Stephanie Pincetl, “Urban Metabolism and the Nature of Sustainable Cities,” The Huffington Post

Bryan Walsh, “How Growing Cities Will Wreck the Environment Unless We Plan Them Right,” Time

look at http://www.urbanheatislands.com/

Part 3 of They Say, I Say.

USDA definition of food desert (http://apps.ams.usda.gov/fooddeserts/foodDeserts.aspx);

Take a look at http://www.arkfab.gatech.edu/content/atlanta%E2%80%99s-food-deserts

Majora Carter, “Greening the Ghetto” (TED Talk)

National Geographic, “Urban Farming is Growing a Green Future.”
Friday: Student presentations
Week 9: Education and Employment

Introduction and Chapter 1 of William Julius Wilson, “From Institutional to Jobless Ghettoes”

Chapter 5 of Wilson is recommended but not required

p. 40-82 of Savage Inequalities, “Other People’s Children: North Lawndale and the South Side of Chicago” (BB)

Chapter 6 of Kevin Kruse, “The Fight for ‘Freedom of Association’: School Desegregation and White Withdrawal.”
Friday: Student presentations
Week 10: Income Disparity

Chapter 6 of William Julius Wilson, “The American Belief System Concerning Poverty and Welfare.”

Chapter 7 of William Julius Wilson, “Racial Antagonisms and Race-Based Social Policy.”

Emily Badger, “The Lasting Impacts of Poverty on the Brain,” The Atlantic Cities website

David Byrne, “If the 1% Stifles New York’s Creative Talent, I’m Out of Here,” The Guardian website

Lisa Mahapatra, “U.S. Income Inequality: The Vast Disparities in Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, and Miami,” Business Insider website.

Friday: Student presentations.
*Research paper due on Friday of week 10
Week 11: Movies about Cities
Monday: discussion of Taxi Driver and Friends.
Wednesday: discussion of Boyz N The Hood
Friday: Student presentations.
Week 12: Gender and cities

Soraya Chemaly, “’Smile, baby’: The Two Words No Woman Wants to Hear,” Salon website.

Katherine Brooks, “Public Art Project Addresses Gender-Based Street Harassment In a Big Way,” The Huffington Post website.

Lauren Cahn, “Blurred Lines and the Art of Catcalling, “The Huffington Post website.

Krystie Lee Yandoli, “The One Group Left Out of Every Street Harassment Conversation,” Policy Mic website.

look at http://www.ihollaback.org/


Clare Foran, “How to Design a City for Women,” The Atlantic Cities website. (please read comments)

Friday: Student Presentations.
*Film analysis will be due on Friday of week 12
Week 13: MARBL Day/ATL Maps
Monday: visit MARBL (maps of Atlanta collections)
Wednesday: ATL Maps in class, discussion and brainstorming
Friday: lab day, ATL Maps
Week 14: The Future of Cities and of Atlanta

Teo Kermeliotis, “Africa’s ‘New Cities’: Urban Future or Utopian Fantasies?” CNN website

Dan Macsai, “What Life Will Be Like in the Cities of the Future,” Time website Alex Davies, “China is Building a Huge Eco-City Where No One Will Need to Drive,” Business Insider.
Wednesday: What’s in Atlanta’s future? Articles on the Beltline, public transit, downtown redevelopment; discussion of ATL Maps project
Friday: Student Presentations
Week 15: Open Week

*ATL Maps project will be due in class on the last day of the semester

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