Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 1.5 hours / session

Undergraduate Recitations: 1 session / week, 1.5 hours / session

Film Screenings: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session

Course Overview

Over the past 150 years, the world has moved from one characterized by rural settlement patterns and provincial lifestyles to one dominated by urbanization, industrialization, immigration, and globalization. Interestingly, the history of this transformation overlaps nearly perfectly with the development of motion pictures, which have served as silent—and then talking—witnesses to our changing lifestyles, changing cities, and changing attitudes about the increasingly urban world we live in. Through the movies—both documentaries and feature films—we are able to see, hear, and share the lived experiences of urban dwellers around the world and across more than twelve decades.

Using film as a lens to explore and interpret various aspects of the urban experience in both the U.S. and abroad, this course presents a survey of important developments in urbanism from 1900 to the present day, including changes in technology, bureaucracy, and industrialization; immigration and national identity; race, class, gender, and economic inequality; politics, conformity, and urban anomie; planning, development, private property, displacement, sprawl, environmental degradation, and suburbanization; and more.

The films shown in the course vary from year to year, but always include a balance of "classics" from the history of film, an occasional experimental / avant-garde film, and a number of more recent, mainstream movies. (See below for this year's schedule.)



Film Schedule

1 Metropolis, Fritz Lang (1926)
2 Berlin: Symphony of a Great City, Walther Ruttman (1927)
3 The Crowd, King Vidor (1928)
4 Modern Times, Charles Chaplin (1936)
5 Ladri di Biciclette (Bicycle Thieves), Vittorio De Sica (1948)
6 The Naked City, Jules Dassin (1948)
7 West Side Story, Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins (1961)
8 Play Time, Jacques Tati (1967)
9 Midnight Cowboy, John Schlesinger (1969)
10 Blade Runner, Ridley Scott (1982)
11 Do the Right Thing, Spike Lee (1989)
12 London, Patrick Keiller (1994)
13 Night on Earth, Jim Jarmusch (1991)

Course Requirements


Weekly film notes (2% each, 12 total) 24%
Class participation 20%
Three short papers (12% each) 36%
Final film essay 20%


Weekly film notes (3% each, 12 total) 36%
Class participation 24%
Final film essay 40%