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The University of Southampton

LANG1013 Reading the City

Module Overview

This module will introduce you to studying questions of history, society and culture through the prism of Southampton in order that you can apply those approaches to the study of cities in the French-, Spanish- and German-speaking world.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Cities as micro-sites of historical, social political and linguistic developments and conflicts that have national and/or transnational significance.
  • How key notions such as ‘nation’, ‘class’, ‘race’, ‘gender’ ‘culture’, or ‘history’ are formed, represented and reproduced in a metropolitan context.
  • Historical and national narratives as told by monumental and representational cultures of cities.
  • How cosmopolitanism and diversity are expressed in urban environments.
  • Urban practices/sites that mediate transnational and global links.
  • Key concepts in cultural theory approaches to the city.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Synthesise and reflectively examine textual and visual materials relating to the subject
  • Critically assess the differences between different modes of representation (e.g. textual, visual and oral)
  • Identify theoretical approaches to the study of metropolitan cultures
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Work effectively as part of a task-orientated group
  • Contribute confidently and appropriately to discussions in seminars
  • Improve/consolidate critical reading skills
  • Improve/consolidate essay writing skills
  • Consolidate library research
  • Competency in fieldwork
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Develop initiative in seeking subject-specific materials and extract information from them
  • Apply subject-specific theoretical approaches to comparable contexts


The module will introduce you to studying questions of history, society and culture through the prism of the city locally in order to be able to analyse cities at global level. The module will use the example of Southampton for the purposes of the research task and you will be able to apply the relevant theories and approaches to global cities such as Madrid, Paris and Berlin in the essay. The module explores cities as sites of national identity and conflict and of wider transnational and global links. Whilst the weekly lectures focus in the main on Southampton and UK cities, references will be made to cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Paris, Berlin and Mexico City and you will have the opportunity to explore those urban centres in more depth through the essayThe module will make reference to cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Paris, Berlin, Mexico City, London in order to examine metropolitan cultures in different historical periods. In doing so we will foreground specific linguistic practices, cultural products and sites through which cities are represented and through which issues of urban identity and politics are expressed (e.g. film, photography, monuments, architecture). In addition we will look at metropolitan cultures as subjects of cultural theory and read some key theoretical texts on issues such as the modern city, cities as sites of linguistic diversity, cosmopolitanism, urban cultures, the global city, space, segregation and inequality.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • lectures and seminars • group discussion • collaborative presentations and tasks Learning activities include • Independent study/research • Preparing and delivering a group project • Written work Innovative or special features of this module  Collaborative learning teams Teaching and study will be organized around a selection of materials which address historical, social and cultural questions that pertain to the city. In addition, each case study will familiarize you with a particular theoretical and methodological angle on studying the city. These issues will be outlined by the lecturer and explored in seminar discussions. You will each be required to perform small non-assessed reading and empirical tasks in preparation of the seminars. The aim is to enable you to practise your textual comprehension skills and methodological awareness to facilitate critical questioning. You are expected to form learning teams of between 4 to 6 students and to conduct fieldwork as a collaborative group project. You will agree on a specific theme, on how you are going to research it and subdivide tasks. Each member will be responsible for researching one aspect and all work together to incorporate individual contributions into a final report. This should take the form of a piece of non-academic writing (e.g. a newspaper article or summary of project findings to be publicized in a variety of media). Thereby, we wish to provide you with training to develop writing skills in a variety of genres which shall enhance your employability and ability to communicate with wider, non-academic audiences.You will be encouraged to use a range of sources, including visual ones. The group project will be presented orally in class. The group presentation will be assessed as group work, whereas the contribution of individual students to the research report will be assessed individually. The final assessed essay will enable you to work independently and broaden the scope to explore global cities. It will be developed from a range of suggested titles in consultation with the lecturers.

Follow-up work4
Preparation for scheduled sessions2
Wider reading or practice40
Completion of assessment task40
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Doreen Massey at al (eds.) (1999). City Worlds. 

Deborah Stevenson (2003). Cities and Urban Cultures. 

Gary Bridge and Sophie Watson (2010). The Blackwell City Reader. 

Fran Tonkiss (2006). Space, the City and Social Theory. 

Steve Pile and Nigel Thrift (eds.) (2000). City a-z. 

Diarmit Mac Giolla Chriost (2007). Language and the City. 

Anna Minton (2009). Ground Control Fear and Happiness in the twenty-first- century city. 

Michael Peter Smith (2001). Transnational Urbanism Locating Globalization. 


Assessment Strategy

Assessments designed to provide informal, on-module feedback  Discussion of local group projects  Discussion of essay plans


Group project


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 50%
Presentation 20%
Report 30%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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