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Writing the City

A detour sign

Millions of stories begin with arrival in a city, full of trepidation or hope or maybe both. Millions of other stories position readers as the new arrivals, offering us a virtual urban experience as we navigate characters and spaces, dangers and pleasures. Across literary genres and periods, the city is not just a setting, but also one of the most ubiquitous characters, with streets—arteries—pulsing with life-blood. Cities are thrilling. Cities are deadening. They serve as emblems both of collective potential and collective crisis. All in all, then, the choices are endless for literary texts for us to read in this course, and I am confident that even the most rural of you will have lots to write about on the subject. Over the term, we will read a range of texts including journalism, songs, comics, and blogs, recent literature by writers such as Alicia Elliott and Bryan Washington, and classic literature by writers such as Italo Calvino, Gwendolyn Brooks, Virginia Woolf, and William Wordsworth. We will read with a view to developing our own voices, perspectives, and styles as writers in a range of genres. Throughout the term students will undertake many short critical and creative exercises to be shared and workshopped in class; at the end of the course each student will undertake a more substantial writing project in a medium or genre of their choice.


Attendance & participation, short critical responses and creative experiments, final project.

Department of English, Queen's University

Watson Hall
49 Bader Lane
Kingston ON K7L 3N6

Telephone (613) 533-2153



Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.