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Study information

Picturing the Global City: Literature and Visual Culture in the 21st Century

Module titlePicturing the Global City: Literature and Visual Culture in the 21st Century
Module codeEAS3421
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Jason Baskin (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Since 2007, for the first time in human history, more people have been living in cities than rural areas. By 2050, 75% of the world’s population will be urbanised. The urban, the global and the contemporary are completely intertwined. Grappling with these facts, and travelling from London, New York, Vancouver and Detroit, to Mumbai, Seoul, and the Yangtze River Delta, in this module you will study recent works of literature and visual culture that aim to come to terms with the new global urban reality of contemporary life.

Module aims - intentions of the module

In this module, you will gain a new and thorough understanding of some of the most exciting works of contemporary literature and visual culture. Undertaking interdisciplinary research that brings together literary and visual cultural analysis, critical geography and urban studies, you will consider how a wide range of twenty-first century works critically engage the complex dynamics of global urbanisation. We will draw on foundational urban theories of the contemporary “global city,” by figures such as Saskia Sassen, David Harvey and Neil Smith, in order to explore topics including: globalisation and transnational migration; inequality and the racialised and gendered “new global division of labour”; neoliberal politics and the economics of finance; gentrification and the rise of the “creative class”; the emergence of global slums and “wageless life”; and the explosions of global riot and racial protest. In this module you will have the unique opportunity to work across various literary genres (from the novel of consciousness and lyric poems to experimental essays) and visual media (film, television, photography and public art/performance) in the fast-developing field of contemporary studies. In engaging this challenging material, you will be asked to participate consistently in seminar discussion, deliver a short presentation or response paper, and write essays on texts/topics of your choosing.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Understand, analyse and contribute to theoretical and critical debates across multiple disciplines surrounding the relation between cultural, globalisation and the city in the contemporary period
  • 2. Describe in detail some key concepts of recent urban studies, specifically concerning the political, social and economic dynamics of neoliberal urbanisation

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Conduct historically and critically informed close reading of cultural texts from a variety of genres and media
  • 4. Analyse at an advanced level cultural texts across a variety of genres and media and engage with their meaningful social, political and literary historical dimensions

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Demonstrate advanced written and/or oral communication skills, and develop and persuasively articulate original arguments about literature and visual culture
  • 6. Demonstrate critical thinking and analytical skills, and work with peers in a collaborative context
  • 7. Conduct independent research and information retrieval and assimilation at a high level

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some of the following topics:

  • The New Global City
  • Gentrification and Neoliberal Urbanism in Fiction and Film
  • Art, Finance and the Creative City
  • The Global Urban Periphery on Film
  • Wageless Cities and the Visual Cultures of Post-industrial Ruin
  • Global Riot and the New Monuments

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching33Lectures, Seminars and Q&A sessions
Guided Independent Study103Seminar preparation (independent)
Guided Independent Study164Reading, research, and assessment preparation

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Weekly Response Papers153 x weekly response papers OR 2 x weekly response papers and 1 new module descriptor (1,000 words total)1-7Feedback sheet with opportunity for follow-up
Portfolio (2 components)401 x 1,500 word site report and 1 x 1,000 word critical commentary 1-7Feedback sheet with opportunity for follow-up
Final Essay 453,000 words1-7Feedback sheet with opportunity for follow-up

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Weekly Response Papers3 x weekly response papers OR 2 x weekly response papers and 1 x new module descriptor (1,000 words total)1-7Referral/Deferral period
Portfolio (2 components)1 x 1,500 word site report and 1 x 1,000 word critical commentary 1-7Referral/Deferral period
Final Essay (3,000 words)Essay 2 (3,000 words)1-7Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to redo the assessment(s) as defined above. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Indicative readings and viewings. You will encounter some of the following works on this module:

  • Lisa Robertson, Occasional Work and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture (Vancouver: Clear Cut Press, 2003).
  • Teju Cole, Open City (London: Faber and Faber, 2011).
  • Zadie Smith, NW (London: Penguin, 2012).
  • Parasite (dir. Bong Joon-ho, 2019).
  • Ben Lerner, 10:04 (London: Granta, 2014).
  • Still Life (dir. Jia Zhangke, 2006)
  • Slumdog Millionaire (dir. Danny Boyle, 2008).
  • The Wire, Season 1 (HBO, 2002).
  • Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre, The Ruins of Detroit (Gottingen: Steidl, 2010).
  • Paul Farber and Ken Lum, Monument Lab Project: Creative Speculations for Philadelphia (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2019).
  • Joshua Clover, Riot. Strike. Riot. (London: Verso, 2016).
  • Mike Davis, Planet of Slums (London: Verso, 2007).
  • Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis and Opposition (Berkeley, CA: UC Press 2007).
  • David Harvey, Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution (London: Verso, 2012).
  • Saskia Sassen, “The Global City: Strategic Site/New Frontier,” American Studies 41:2/3 (Summer/Fall 2000): 79-95.
  • Neil Smith, “New Globalism, New Urbanism: Gentrification as Global Urban Strategy,” Antipode 34.3 (July 2002): 427-448.
  • Edward Soja and Miguel Kanai, “The Urbanization of the World” in The Endless City, ed. Ricky Burdett and Devan Sudjic (London: Phaidon, 2010).
  • Phil Neel, Hinterland: America’s New Landscape of Class and Conflict (London: Reaktion Books, 2018)

Key words search

Global Anglophone culture, American culture, twenty-first-century culture, the city in literature, film and visual culture, critical theory, urban studies, neoliberalism, finance, economics, politics, race, gender

Credit value30
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


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