Prerequisites: Span 25
In this interdisciplinary active learning course, students will learn techniques of reading the city as text and hypertext. They will explore the “edgeless” mixture of objective and subjective constructs about the city in the work of two influential Latin American writers who identify themselves as ‘walkers’ and narrators of their native cities: Jorge Luis Borges of Buenos Aires and Eduardo Lalo of San Juan (Puerto Rico); and will be given practical exercises to observe, analyze and represent their own experience as they (re)discover the city of Berkeley.
The course is structured in three units. In the first two units, students will observe, analyze and reflect on how Borges and Lalo (re) present continuities and dislocations in their cities, through these authors poems, stories, music, photography, and videos. We will complement the readings of “Fervor de Buenos Aires” and “Los pies de San Juan” with other articles from various disciplines that will enrich our perspective, and will also read “The Garden of the Forking Paths” where Borges illustrates the notion of a space-time- experience hypertext. Borges and Lalo are far apart in space and time, but nevertheless share continuities (and disruptions) in the way they represent their cities as places that are factual yet also socially meaningful and historically changing. Borges presents an intimate– at times almost autobiographical– representation of Buenos Aires, while Lalo captures the alienation and precariousness of the urban experience of the poor in San Juan, a city that depends heavily on tourism.
In the third unit, students will carry out field-work to better understand and communicate their experience of Berkeley as a city in which they are both dwellers and visitors. In preparation for that field work, students will be assisted and guided in techniques of observing, listening, and reflecting drawn from the method City as Text (CAT) as explained by Peter A Machonis and by Bernice Braid. They will be given exercises to help them develop a sense of place, and their own unique perspective when they go to explore the city as a polymorphous hypertext, continually changing in response to user input. Guest speakers (a cartographer, journalists, a historian, an architect) will present on special aspects of Berkeley, and will enhance the students’ preparation and selection of local sites to explore in this urban realm, as they become “flaneurs” and narrators of the city, too.
Our readings will provide a context for discussion of student insights and experiences of their field-work assignments. Students will write and illustrate multimedia academic blogs for each of the units. They will also be able to make basic maps about what is not apparent in traditional maps, create research posters, short videos and effective slideshows. They will learn to observe and analyze. the unexpected as well as the expected, and will interview city dwellers about urban life. They will use those techniques for a deeper understanding of urban life experiences in this city in which students are both dwellers and visitors. They will learn how to create an e-portfolios that will gather written and multimedia works they created for this course as well as their critical analysis of how it intersects with their personal and academic life up to now.