Theses Doctoral

The Spectral City: Walking the Literary Landscapes of New York City

Particelli, Brice

This dissertation focuses on the intersections of theories of place, space, and story. It is part ethnographic, part literary studies, and dives deeply into American history and literature, beginning with the industrial revolution in the 19th Century. It steps into theories and literature surrounding how we story ourselves into the world, focused in large part on the literary archetype that grows from the concept of the flâneur--Charles Baudelaire and Walter Benjamin's urban wanderer who walks both the city streets and art and literature to explore meaning and purpose of city and story, and to fight against a sometimes alienating place. My dissertation expands some of those notions, and explores the ways we expand and investigate our own literary geographies.
Each chapter merges theory and practice in various ways of reading and writing space and story--from a walk across the city and its waterfront where I chronicle the history of the flâneur alongside the history of the economic and physical development of New York City; to a sit in a neighborhood café where I theorize how we layer (or "write") history, personal experience, and literature into familiar places; to a 24-hour ride along the 1-line subway, which becomes an extended metaphor that problematizes "meaning" in literature as I loop through a supposedly static space, barely moving from my seat from 8am to 8am. Each of these investigations intentionally blurs the lines between reading and writing, space and story, and theory and practice, in order to expand theoretical approaches to place and literature.
Through this dissertation I hope to add to the theoretical body of work in studies of place, literature, and urban studies, and to challenge the ways that we discuss literary theory by offering approaches to these discussions in ways that situate them in a different sort of action.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
English Education
Thesis Advisors
Vinz, Ruth
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 7, 2014