nl en

Imagining the City


Admission requirements

This course is available for students in the BA Urban Studies programme and to a limited amount of external students.


The course is divided in twelve lectures for all students, and four small-scale tutorial work groups. The divison between the two is that in the lectures concepts are introduced in relation to theories on the basis of works of art. In the work groups students are putting the concepts into practice.

In the lectures we consider:
1) how we can systematically study, from a humanities perspective, how the city is a double object of reading. Cities appear in ‘texts’ – linguistic, visual, acoustic – that we can read. Yet it is also possible to consider the city itself as a ‘text’, that we can read and make sense of.
2) We take serious that the medium of architecture is space: the shaping of space. How does this medium relate to other media? The city is on the one hand the space in which media find a place, where they come to appear, where theaters, circuses or stadiums are built, cinemas and studios, or where newspapers are made. At the same time city spaces themselves appear in representations; they are often imagined before they become real. And each medium (literature, newspaper, photography, radio, cinema) has its own specific way of representing the city. Finally, what is theatrical, or spectacular about the city space itself?
3) Cities have been read, or considered, or designed on the basis of powerful tropes: the city as a body politic, as a node in a network, as a utopian space or dystopian one, as jungle or garden, as a palimpsest or labyrinth. What implications do these tropes have and how are they worked out in terms of cultural interactions?

The tutorial sessions for Imagining the City provide the occasion for students to ask questions about the content of the lectures and will have a workshop-like character: during the four sessions each group will work towards the group-based poster presentation and individual research proposal that make up the ‘midterm’ assessment (40% of the final grade).

Midterm assessment: poster presentation + research proposal
In groups of four, students decide on an object of research. They may either choose a city and study it as a representation (i.e. an aspect of a city, or part of a city, or an object in a city) or they may analyze a representation of a city (i.e. a work of art that reflects on a city, a part of a city, an object in a city, etc.), taking the course book (Imaginations/Cancellations) and lectures as an example. Working together, they will prepare for the writing of a research proposal, that proposes to study their object from four individual angles, leading to four individual research questions. Those preparations will be presented to the other groups in the form of a poster presentation. This process thus leads to two outputs: a poster presentation (groupwise, ½ of 40%) and a research proposal (individual, ½ A4, ½ of 40%):

The poster presentation presents the object of study as an object of study; i.e. in such a way that it becomes visually apparent which four angles of analysis the group will use to approach the object as an object worthy of research in line with the imaginations/cancellations approach. In the research proposal, each of the members of the poster presentation group proposes a research question concerning their object of study, in no more than half a page. The proposal starts by introducing the object, it goes on to state the problem inherent in the object in the context of an urban humanities approach, as is laid out in the book Imaginations/Cancellations and in the lectures. The proposal concludes with a concise research question that reflects on the dynamic of imagination/cancellation.

Course objectives

General learning outcomes

See tab Additional information for the overview of the programme's general learning outcomes. In the assessment methods below is outlined which general learning outcome will be tested through which method.

Course objectives, pertaining to this course

At the end of the course, the student can:
1) assess how the realities in cities have been captured and influenced by artistic imaginations, in different media, in different times, on the basis of different tropes.
2) See the consequences of formal characteristics of different artistic media by means of which the city has been imagined.
3) interpret and ‘read’ the city for its different meanings – both in terms of the representations of cities, and in terms of how cities themselves appear as a distinct form of text.
4) choose a distinct approach to the city, focusing on one aspect of the city in relation to other aspects.
5) distinguish the different forms of culture that are dynamically related in and through the city


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Tutorial (compulsory attendance)
    This means that students have to attend every tutorial session of the course. If a student is unable to attend a tutorial or lecture, they should inform the lecturer in advance, providing a valid reason for absence. The teacher will determine if and how the missed session can be compensated by an additional assignment. If they are absent from a tutorial without a valid reason, they can be excluded from the final exam in the course.

Assessment method


  • Participation during tutorials
    -measured programme's general learning outcomes: 1-2, 4-6, 8, 10-11, 13-15, 19-24, 26
    -measured course specific objectives: 1-5

  • Midterm exam
    Poster presentation and research question
    -measured programme's general learning outcomes: 1-2, 4-6, 8, 10-11, 13-15, 19-22, 26
    -measured course specific objectives: 1-5

  • Final exam
    Written examination: case studies, close readings and theories
    -measured programme's general learning outcomes: 1-2, 4-6, 8, 10-11, 13-15, 19-22, 26
    -measured course specific objectives: 1-5


Partial grade Weighing
Tutorial grade 10
Group assignment 2x20 = 40
Final Exam 50

End grade

To successfully complete the course, please take note of the following:

  • The end grade of the course is established by determining the weighted average of all assessment components.

  • Please note that if the final exam is lower than 5.50, you will not pass the course, regardless of the grade for the other assessment components.


If the end grade is insufficient (lower than a 6.0), or the final exam grade is lower than 5.50, there is a possibility of retaking the final exam, replacing the previous final exam grade. No resit for the tutorial grade and/or midterm exam is possible.

Faculty regulations concerning participation in resits are listed in article 4.1 of the Faculty Course and Examination Regulations.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organised.

Reading list

Frans-Willem Korsten & Anthony Albright,* Imaginations/Cancellations: A Humanities Approach to Urbanism in Tropes, Media and Genres. *



  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Student Affairs Office for BA Urban Studies


A limited amount of external students can follow this course as an elective course. To enroll, send an email to the Education Administration Office: