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the “urban experience as… Hell”

July 14, 2011

Again, an interesting argument from Marla Harris:

Quoting Elizabeth Wilson, Harris states that “‘Nineteenth-century planning reports, government papers and journalism created an interpretation of urban experience as a new version of Hell…'” (my emphasis, p64)

Harris moves from here into considering the battlefield metaphor that urban life is also sometimes understood through, describing Mike Davis’s work on Los Angeles:

“Mike Davis, in his sociological analysis of late-twentieth-century Los Angeles, underscores the potentially racist and classist subtext of urban architecture: ‘Ramparts and battlements, reflective glass and elevated pedways, are tropes in an architectural language warning of the underclass Other’….  [Davis further refers to this as] a ‘strategic armoring of the city against the poor’ through the manipulation of space and building designs….” (my emphasis, p64)

Ref: Marla Harris “Bleak Houses and Secret Cities: Alternative Communities in Young Adult Fiction” Children’s Literature in Education 33(1)2002, pp63-76

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