University Diaries
A professor of English describes American university life.
Aim: To change things.
Contact UD at: margaret-dot-soltan-at-gmail-dot-com

Read my book, TEACHING BEAUTY IN DeLILLO, WOOLF, AND MERRILL (Palgrave Macmillan; forthcoming), co-authored with Jennifer Green-Lewis. VISIT MY BRANCH CAMPUS AT INSIDE HIGHER ED

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"Unvarnished." (Phi Beta Cons)
"Splendidly splenetic." (Culture Industry)
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and Soltan isn't. For the life of me, I can't figure out her
politics, but she's pretty fabulous, so who gives a damn?"
(Tenured Radical)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

UD will soon…

…be going to Tom Wolfe’s Jefferson Lecture here in Washington, and in preparation for that she’ll read some Jane Jacobs. Jacobs, who died today, wrote The Death and Life of Great American Cities and was among the first to perceive the fiasco of modern urban planning. James Kunstler interviewed her a few years ago at her home in Toronto:

[S]he declared… starkly in "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" that the experiment of Modernist urbanism was a thumping failure, and urged Americans to look instead to the traditional wisdom of the vernacular city and its fundamental unit, the street, instead of the establishment gurus. This was the first shot in a war that has been ongoing ever since. Decades later, her book become one of the seminal texts of the New Urbanism (along with the books of Lewis Mumford).

(UD’s faithful readers will recall her admiration of Mumford and the spot of Mumford excitement at her house not long ago.)

There’s a little something in the interview touching on the controversy about whether and where you should go to college:

JHK: You hadn't gone to college, by the way?

JJ: Well, I hadn’t wanted to go to school after I finished high school. I was so glad to get out.

She did, though, take some courses at Columbia:

But I was angry at what was happening [to cities] and what I could see first hand was happening. It all came to me first hand. I didn’t have any abstractions about American culture. In the meantime I had gone a couple years to Columbia but I hadn’t been taking classes in American Culture. I sat in on one in Sociology for a while and I thought it was so dumb. [See one post down.] But I had a wonderful time with various science courses and other things that I took there. And I have always been grateful for what I learned in those couple of years.