Courses: Memory, Monuments, and Urban Space (WRPRH159A01)

Fall 2013

Whether as statues, walls, plaques, parks, or other commemorative structures, memorials and monuments are regular features of urban topography. Such “sites of memory” not only instruct us about significant events of the past, but do so in the space and time of the present. And yet, the historical memory of cities is also made legible through other modes of cultural expression and inscription – including literature, photography, graffiti, music, and street performance. Cycles of urban de-industrialization and renewal since the 1970s, as well as legacies of conflict and inequality, have exacerbated the need for alternate forms of commemoration. Increasingly, digital apps and websites increase access to elusive physical layers of memory, while reinforcing the loss associated with historical change. Collectively, sites of memory remind us that cities are places where we simultaneously innovate toward progress and attempt to heal traumas of the past. In this writing course, we will explore literary, cultural, and architectural approaches to urban historical memory. We will look to officially sanctioned monuments as well as countercultural expressions of memory to study the cultural life of cities. We will focus primarily on the period between 1968 and the present, considering the roles of race, gender, sexuality, and class in debates about cultural memory in such ongoing matters of historical reflection as: the assassination of Martin Luther King, the Vietnam War, the War on Drugs, the MOVE bombing, the AIDS epidemic, and 9/11. In addition to regular writing assignments, we will take several field trips to sites of memory in Philadelphia, with the city serving as one of our primary sources for this course.

Prerequisites: Open only to First-Year students as assigned by the Director of College Writing.

Fulfills: HU FW Limit:12


Writing Program (Web site)

Taught By

Paul Farber (Profile)


Haverford, Gest 102

Meeting Times

MW 1:00-2:30