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The City in Literature: An Intellectual and Cultural History Hardcover – April 1, 1998

2 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Editorial Reviews


...an ambitiously wide-ranging and erudite account of not simply how western novelists have depicted the city in their work but of how the very form of the city has influenced the novel. [Lehan] displays more affinity for literary theory than for the texture and life of cities, and accordingly the discussion takes place on a fairly abstract plane.... [H]owever, the city is built as much upon imagination as with concrete and steel, so there is something to be said for Lehan's approach. -- The Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review, Tom Vanderbilt --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Richard Lehan is Professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles. His books include The Great Gatsby: The Limits of Wonder (1990).

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 307 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (April 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520210425
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520210424
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,522,020 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
An ok general analysis of the theme of the city in literature but some major problems limit the interest of the book. The focus is largely on works written in English. There are only a handful of pages on Baudelaire, Balzac, Calvino, Dostoevsky; nothing on Kerouac and the Beats; a great deal on Eliot and Joyce that reads more like a summary of their work instead of an analysis of the role of the city in their work. The book's emphasis on Modernism also overplays the theme of alienation and the city, and almost completely ignores the element of cultural cross-pollination and creativity that can result from a stimulating urban milieu. By spending so much time on Eliot's "Four Quartets, " a reader might get the impression that there is nothing redeeming about cities and they only serve to grind down the masses with their impersonality and distance from nature.
This book is perhaps best suited for a bright high school student who is looking for a good frame in which to put some of their reading. Otherwise, head back to Jane Jacobs, Lewis Mumford and others. Good bibliography in here, however....
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