Robert Alter
Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 2005, English
Nonfiction, General; Nonfiction, Urban Design
ISBN: 9780300108026

From the Publisher. A literary investigation of how the modern metropolis — intoxicating, disturbing, powerful — changed perceptions and irrevocably altered the Western imagination. Alter traces the arc of literary development triggered by the runaway growth of urban centers from the early nineteenth century through the first two decades of the twentieth. As new technologies and arrangements of public and private space changed the ways people experienced time and space, the urban panorama became less coherent--a metropolis defying traditional representation and definition, a vast jumble of shifting fragments and glimpses — and writers were compelled to create new methods for conveying the experience of the city. In interpretations of novels by Flaubert, Dickens, Bely, Woolf, Joyce, and Kafka, Alter reveals the ways the city entered the literary imagination.

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Julie Iovine

I think of this book together with Charles Dickens’s Dombey and Son as it was through Imagined Cities that I came to consider Dickens anew. For once, in describing the wrenching toll of industrialization—specifically constructing the new railroad slashing through neighborhoods—Dickens’s melodramatic writing seems just the thing. Alter goes on to brilliantly explicate carriage traffic in Flaubert as well.

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