Geography: Discuss the modern subject and the city along with the avant garde in relation to the spaces and subjects of modernity

GG3017: The Spaces and Subjects of Modernity
Denis Linehan
The Modern Subject and the City

Each person behaves as though he is a stranger to the destiny of all the others…As for transactions with other citizens,he may mix among them, but he see them not; he touchs them, but he does not feel them; he exists only in himself and for himself alone. And if on these terms there remains in his mind a sense of family, there is no longer a sense of society.
Alexis de Tocqueville,1845, Democracy in America
…having stopped seeking for the glance of the other, they end up not seeing each other..
Jean Baudrillard, 1986, Amérique

Look at the Speed out there!/ It Magnetises me to it/And I have no Fear/ I m only in to this to Enjoy!
Bjork, 1997 Post

Walking the streets has been reduced to a system in London; everyone taking the right hand of another, whereby confusion is avoided…the contrary mode is a sure indication of a person being a stranger, or living at the outskirts of town
J. Badcock, 1828

The substitution of the unconscious action of crowds for the conscious activity of individuals is one of the principal characteristics of the present age
Gustav Le Bon, 1896

…when individuals come together in a group all their individual intentions fall away and all the cruel, brutal and destructive instincts, which lie dormant in individuals as relics of a primitive epoch, are stirred up to find gratifications
Sigmund Freud, 1921

The threatening masses were described as hysterical or in images of feminine instability and sexuality, as a flood or a swamp. Like women, crowds were liable to rush to extremes of emotion.
Elizabeth Wilson, 1991

Being essentially unknowable, the mass acquires definition though the imposition of imagined attributes
John Cary, 1992

Nina looked down and saw inclined at an odd angle a horizon of straggling red suburb; arterial roads, dotted with little cars; factories, some of them working, others empty and decaying; a disused canal; some distant hills sown with bungalows; wireless masts and overhead power cables; man and women were indiscernible except as tiny spots; they were marrying and shopping and making money and having children. The scene lurched and tilted as the aeroplane struck a current of air.
I think I am going to be sick said Nina.
Evlyn Waugh, Vile Bodies, 1938

The Modern Subject and the City

This is the first of four lectures which explores different ways in which the modern city has been interpreted by key social theorists in the 20th century. Today, we will examine the growth of the modern city or the Metropolis and question how its growth corresponded to the development of new notions of identity and subjectivity. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, a number of major changes in mobility, economy, technology and infrastructure created the metropolis. Cities such as Berlin, Paris or Chicago were dramatically transformed. These developments were often rapid, disruptive and sometimes destructive and came to signify the quality and condition of modernity. For instance in Paris, reconstruction, also known as Haussmannization, effectively separated the financial and commercial districts from residential and recreational areas in the city. This transformation was made at the cost of the destruction of the ancient medieval town and modes of life and involved a radical displacement of the Parisian population. Urban dwellers therefore faced the contradiction of being thrilled and emancipated by new urban spaces, but also felt increasingly disempowered and excluded from the new metropolis that emerged. Thus, the metropolis may be viewed as a modernist utopia, symbolising progress and enlightenment, and a very dystopic environment built on annihilation of traditional ways of life and increased exclusion and alienation of individuals. In these contexts, there was no shortage of social commentators who conceived a link between the new social and environmental conditions of the metropolis and psychological state of the urban dweller. It seemed clear that the metropolis became a space where new subjects were being made. In todays lecture, commentary made about urban crowds (Le Bon)and individuals (Simmel) is considered and the manner in which these theories presented a reading of new form of urban subjectivity reviewed.

Learning Outcomes On the basis of this lecture and associated readings you should expect to be able to:

sketch out the major social and economic forces which lead to the growth of the so called Metropolis
discuss Richard Sinnett notion of Passiveand Comfortablepublic spaces
define Le Bon theory of crowds
outline why the psychology of crowds became significant to the definition of urban subjectivity
outline the significance of Simmel notions of alienation and individualisation to the understanding of urban identity
describe specific urban practices, such as travelling in public transport, which subjectify the individual in particular ways
Zygmunt Baumann, 1998, Tourists and Vagabonds in his Globalisation: The Human Consequences, Cambridge, 77-103. *
Dominique Bouchet, 1998, Information Technology, the Social Bond and the City: about the changing relationship relationship between Identity and the City, Built Environment, 24, 2/3, 104-133 *
John Carey, (1992) Rewriting the Crowdand The Suburbs and the Clerksin his The Intellectuals and the Masses, Faber and Faber, London
Michel de Certeau, 1984 Walking in the cityin his The Practice of Everyday Life, University of California Press, Berkeley. *
Peter Goheen, 1998, Public Space and the geography of the modern city, Progress in Human Geography, 479-494*
Richard Sinnett, 1994 Urban Individualismin his Flesh and Stone: the body and the city in western civilisation, W.W Norton and Company, New York *
Gustave Le Bon, (1921) The Crowd: a study of the popular mind. T. Fisher and Unwin,London.
John Jervis, 1998 Street Peopleand Machines and Skyscrapers: Technology as Experience, Hope and Fear, in his Exploring the Modern, Blackwell, London*
Stephen Kern 1986Distancein his The Culture of Time and Space 1880-1918, Harvard University Press
Steve Pile, 1996, The Body and the City, Routledge, London. esp: pp.100-103
Raymond Williams 1988 Massesin his Keywords: a vocabulary of culture and society, Fontana Press, London *
George Simmil, 1903 The Metropolis and Mental Life*
George Simmel, 1908, The Stranger*

For a primer on issues of Identity and Subjectivity see Stuart Hall, 1995 The Question of Cultural Identityin Stuart Hall, David Held and Tony McGrew, Modernity and its Futures, Polity Press, Cambridge*

GG3017: The Spaces and Subjects of Modernity
Denis Linehan

We are all robots when uncritically involved with our technologies.
Marshall McLuhan
To be happy is to be able to become aware of oneself without fright
Walter Benjamin

The true picture of the past flits by. The past can only be siezed only as an image which flashes by at the instant when it can be recognised and never be seen again
Walter Benjamin

PSYCHOGEOGRAPHY: the study of the precise effects of a geographical setting, consciously managed or not, acting directly on the mood of the individual
Situationist Internationale, 1958

PSYCHOGEOGRAPHER: one who studies and reports on psychogeographical realities
Situationist Internationale, 1958

Walter Benjamin and the City

A number of avant-garde movements in the 20th century have sought to comment on the nature of modernity, and in particular the consequences of modern formations in the city. This lecture introduces you to the work of Walter Benjamin, whose work stradles much of what developed within the avant guard movement of Surrealism, Daddism and Situationism. His treatment of the city as a text, his notion of the flaneur and his interest in the dreamworld or the aura of modernity as a critic