Writing about Cities: Place and Memory
URB 451 / HIS 451 / AMS 413
Princeton’s monuments tell the story of the past. But whose stories, and whose past?
These are questions both here at Princeton, as we discuss the role of slavery in the University’s history and Woodrow Wilson’s legacy on campus, and in larger national conversations about the presence of Confederate monuments and representation of historically marginalized groups. In this moment of national reckoning with public memory and public spaces, we can ask: How are places made? Who remembers the past, and how? And what stories do we want our public spaces to tell in the future?
To answer these questions, a new seminar, “Writing About Cities: Place and Memory,” investigates three areas. First, we’ll learn to read the built environment as a multiauthored text by engaging in cultural analysis, archival research, and geographic fieldwork. Second, we’ll speak with key people with Princeton’s libraries, art museum, architect’s office, and the Princeton & Slavery project. We’ll also take field trips into the town of Princeton and to the Tenement Museum and to the Museum of Chinese in America, both in New York City. Finally, we’ll contribute to ongoing discussions about place and memory. We’ll develop proposals for new monuments for Princeton’s campus, which we’ll present to Princeton’s Campus Iconography Committee and community members at the end of the term. The course is open to all students and does not require a prior background in history or specialized training.
There are stories in Princeton’s stones. We’ll learn to read them—and to write our own.
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