Teaching “Open City” today; palimpsest, multiple temporal layers, and the city

Teaching Teju Cole’s Open City today as part of my course ”Topics in Post-45 American Literature – Futures of New York City in Contemporary American Literature” at the KU Leuven. The aim of the course is to provide students with the concepts and theoretical frameworks to explore the (often contradictory) meanings of 21st century literature of New York City, with specific reference to future-oriented literature. In the previous lecture, we discussed Odds Against Tomorrow together with theoretical texts from futures studies. Today, Open City will be approached with the help of the key concept “palimpsest” and with some reading from Burton Pike’s The Image of the City in Modern Literature. The idea is to ground readings by the students in a broader awareness of how different temporal scales tend to function within literature of the city, before moving into reflections on how future (or possible) worlds are hinted at in Open City.

I’ve published on Open City in other contexts (see my article > “Reading Signs of Uncertain Times in New York and Brussels” [pdf]), and this lecture as well as the whole course are part of my current research project on future visions of cities at the water. Looking forward to discussing the different angles of my research with the students today.


Ameel, Lieven. “Open City: Reading Signs of Uncertain Times in New York and Brussels.” In Polvinen, Merja; Salenius, Maria & Sklar, Howard (eds.): Mielikuvituksen maailmat / Fantasins världar / Worlds of Imagination. Turku: Eetos, 2017, 290-308.