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Week 2 12 January 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 1 Week 2 The City as Text GEOG | Imagining Toronto Department of Geography Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies York University Winter Term
Week 2 12 January 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 2 Before the real city could be seen it had to be imagined, the way rumours and tall tales were a kind of charting. Michael Ondaatje, In the Skin of a Lion. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1987
Week 2 12 January 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 3 The city as we imagine it, the soft city of illusion, myth, aspiration, nightmare, is as real, maybe more real, than the hard city one can locate on maps. Jonathan Raban, Soft City. London: Collins Harvill, 1988.
The city is a discourse and this discourse is truly a language: the city speaks to its inhabitants, we speak our city, the city where we are, simply by living in it, by wandering through it, by looking at it. Roland Barthes, Semiology and the Urban. In The City and the Sign: An Introduction to Urban Semiotics, ed. M. Gottdiener and Alexandros Ph. Lagopoulos, New York: Columbia University Press. Week 2 12 January 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 4
Week 2 12 January 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 5 [Toronto is] a city that exists in no ones imagination, neither in Toronto, nor in the rest of the world. … Toronto is a place people live, not a place where things happen, or, at least, not where the sorts of things happen that forge a place for the city in the imagination. Bert Archer, Making a Toronto of the Imagination. in uTOpia: Towards a New Toronto. Toronto: Coach House, 2005.
Week 2 12 January 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 6 A key difficulty in constructing the citys metaphors is the handling of meaning from one generation to the next, or across barriers of birth, class and circumstance. For a large part of its history, Toronto has been in a state of near-amnesia, seeking desperately for its own memory. Germaine Warkentin, Mapping Wonderland. Literary Review of Canada, 13(10):
Week January 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 7 Nothing in a city is discrete. A city is all interpolation. Dionne Brand, Thirsty. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart.
Week 2 12 January 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 8 The literature is still catching up with the city, with its new stories. Dionne Brand, quoted in Vanity Fair, 2005
The Imagined City The city we inhabit resides somewhere between the physical (the city we see) and the metaphysical (the city we imagine) Cities are more than physical places: they are also spaces of representation and the imagination. Hana Wirth-Nesher on cities as culturally constructed spaces: symbolic worlds shape the perception of physical form itself. (53) This is not to say that any given perception of a city may resonate as much as any other: constructed readings of cities are also shaped by class, race, gender, ability, culture, etc. By paying attention to different ways of reading a city, we can expose some of these constructions and their contradictions. Week 2 12 January 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 9
Week 2 12 January 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 10 Urban Epistemologies: Some Ways of Reading the City Realist: fact/fiction; descriptive; ideographic; regional novels (from the era of regional geography) Literary criticism: Baudelaire, Walter Benjamin, Franco Moretti Social construction: Edward Sojas thirdspace Class fictions: David Harvey, Henri Lefebvre Discourse and power [postmodern fixations]: Foucault, Derrida Postcolonial approaches: Homi Bhabha, Edward Said Humanist and phenomenological approaches (Yi-Fu Tuan, David Seamon, Gaston Bachelard) Feminism and gendered approaches (Judith Butler, Doreen Massey, Iris Young) Psychogeography [the flaneur ; the derive ]: Guy Debord ( Society of the Spectacle ); de Certeau ( The Practice of Everyday Life )
Dionne Brands Toronto Anonymity is the big lie of a city. (3) What floats in the air … is chance. … Any minute you can crash into someone elses life … (4) [O]n the sidewalks, after theyve emerged from the stations, after being sandpapered by the jostling and scraping that a city like this does, all the lives theyve hoarded, all the ghosts theyve carried, all the inversions theyve made for protection, all the scars and marks and records for recognition – the whole heterogeneous baggage falls out with each step on the pavement. Theres so much spillage. (5) Lives in the city are doubled, tripled, conjugated – women and men all trying to handle their own chain of events, trying to keep the story straight in their own heads. At times they catch themselves in sensational lies, embellishing or avoiding a nasty secret here and there, juggling the lines of causality, and before you know it, its impossible to tell one thread from another. (5) [From What We All Long For. Knopf, 2005] Week 2 12 January 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 11
Week 2 12 January 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 12
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