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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 four work group sessions build up towards sensing and defining an ‘urban text’ that provokes a research question. The build up is as follows:

  • 1) Students will do a close reading of a text in two modes of representation. One concerns the issue of how the city appears in a (literary) text, the other considers a city(part) that can be read as text.

  • 2) Students work with the consequences of media. If the medium of architecture is space, the shaping of space depends on the materials used. Likewise the way in which the city can appear depends on the material possibilities of the medium used. What are the implications of this dependency?

  • 3) Students concentrate on how aware they are of their socio-political or cultural position. They first have to define their own specific position and proceed from there in choosing a work of art or a city-scene to consider it both from their own position and to consciously take another perspective.

  • 4) Students choose an urban object that puzzles, or strikes, or intrigues, and as such provokes a research question. They will then choose a medium and a format (a vlog, a poster presentation etc.) that helps them to present that object and the research question.

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


Visit MyTimetable.

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
    Take home exam consisting of group assignment
    -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 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

  • Syllabus, available from first lecture

  • A limited amount of primary sources; films can be watched through one of the online media; songs avaible via YouTube


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Prof. dr. F.W.A. Korsten E. Edelmann MA