Cinematic Cities/Comparative Modernities

Debashree Mukherjee

This graduate seminar explores the representational, imaginative, and analytical connections between cinema and the urban experience. Theories of modernity frequently hold up the city as the most emblematic site for locating the modern (eg. Benjamin, Simmel, Kracaueur). Cinema, too, as art and apparatus, can be said to have embodied the ‘shocks’ of the modern (Singer, Gunning, Eisenstein). This course introduces students to a significant corpus of literature on cinema and mediated urbanisms. By insisting on a comparative approach, the seminar seeks to put existing theories of cinematic urbanisms that pertain to Berlin, Paris, or Los Angeles, into dialogue with ‘other’ cinematic sites such as Mumbai, Algiers, Mexico City, or Kuala Lumpur.  The seminar will survey key texts in media theory, cinema studies, and urban studies to introduce students to a wide and interdisciplinary literature on cinema, cities, and modernity. Every week we will view a film that represents or conceptually speaks to the ideas discussed in class, be they questions of speed and verticality, flaneur theory, migrant labor, urban inequality, or gendered experiences of space. Attendance at film screenings will be mandatory.