Out now with Ohio State University Press: the edited volume City Scripts: Narratives of Postindustrial Urban Futures (Buchenau, Gurr & Sulimma). The book is available open access! (pdf here)
From the abstract:
“Storytelling shapes how we view our cities, legitimizing histories, future plans, and understandings of the urban. City Scripts responds to calls by literary theorists to engage a new kind of narrative analysis that recalibrates close reading and interpretation to the multiple ways in which narratives “do things”—how they intervene in the world and take action in everyday life. A multidisciplinary cast of contributors approaches this new way of looking at cities through the stories people tell about them, looking especially at political activism and urban planning, which depend on the invention of plausible stories of connectedness and of a redemptive future.”
The book comes out of the interdisciplinary work of the City Scripts group formed at the American Studies Departments of the University Alliance Ruhr (Duisburg-Essen, Bochum, Dortmund), with whom I had the privilege to collaborate over the past years. Really happy to see this work culminate in this brilliant collection!
The book includes my own article “Redemptive Scripts in the City Novel“. Drawing on a corpus of New York novels, the article argues that endeavors towards personal, communal, and national redemption have provided a powerful script in more than a century of writing literary New York. Literary works discussed include Edith Wharton’s short story “Autres temps…” (1911), F. Scot Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925) and Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist (1999). The article connects the notion of redemption to broader discussions on narrative closure, as well as to modes of storytelling in contemporary urban planning.
From the conclusion:
“Redemptive plots, then, continue to be important narrative frames of meaning in American lives and American cultural representations. Such plots are hinged upon the desire to see balance restored, sins atoned for, freedom gained. Redemptive plots are also about finding a voice to salvage something meaningful from the broken world order. Some authors will hope that this redeeming aspect will be replicated in their readers or audiences. Other texts will engage with redemptive plots in ways that draw the readers’ attention to the dangers of believing that order can be restored painlessly—The Great Gatsby and, more recently, the planning document Vision 2020 gesture toward the possibility of redemption while warning the reader not to be blinded by the promise of new beginnings or easy solutions. In the American context, redemptive scripts are also the arena for processes of exclusion and differentiation, and in a work such as Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist, the promise of redemption is considered in light of its universalist pretenses and complicated by connecting it to America’s history of racialized inequality. Moving into the present century, new challenges—such as catastrophic man-made climate change—will undoubtedly further complicate how redemptive scripts are drawn upon to deal with past traumas and future threats.” (169)
The article is part of a broader research project that looks at notions of redemption in literature and culture, with a recent keynote lecture on the same subject presented at the Making the City conference in Chemnitz, Germany.