Virtual Cities: Urbanity and Cyberspace

Virtual Cities: Urbanity and Cyberspace

Dr. Yael Maurer
Spring Semester
Office Hours:By appointment


Short description:

Cityscapes are frequently at the heart of science fiction narratives, and often serve as a catalyst for the exploration of binary relationships such as human/alien, real/virtual, past/future, biology/technology and Self/Other. In science fiction, the exploration of these dichotomies is often done by eliciting a sense of estrangement, which in turn generates a feel of both fascination and alienation in an audience.  

In visual culture this sense of fascination and alienation often materializes through the connection between socio-cultural currents and the urban. A futuristic depiction of technological culture and urbanity was produced as early as 1927 in Fritz Lang’s epic science fiction masterpiece Metropolis.

The metropolitan space has been a defining feature of modernity. As Gyan Prakash reminds us in Noir Urbanisms, technological innovations impact the cityscape, shaping it as a utopian space. This utopian vision of the metropolis is undermined by the grim realities of capitalism’s oppressive forces. The “shadow” that hangs over the city as utopia is expressed by creating “dark visions of mass society forged by capitalism and technology”. Nowhere is this critique more evident than in science fictional narratives.

This course explores cityscapes in literary works and on screen. We will examine urban spaces which are reimagined as science fictional locales and see how the figure of the city and its urban dwellers is reinvented in the science fictional narratives of virtual spaces and alien cityscapes.



Minor assignments:  2 short response papers/short presentations  : 11%

Mid Term: In class (19%)

Final requirement: Final paper (70%) 6-10 pages



Attendance is mandatory. Students are permitted a maximum of three unexcused absences without penalty. Any additional absences will affect the final grade and may result in failure of the course.


Academic conduct:

Plagiarism is taken extremely seriously. Any instance of academic misconduct which includes: submitting someone else’s work as your own; failure to accurately cite sources; taking words from another source without using quotation marks; submission of work for which you have previously received credit; working in a group for individual assignments; using unauthorized materials in an exam and sharing your work with other students, will result in failure of the assignment and will likely lead to further disciplinary measures.

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