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Walking New York City

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Pedestrians in Times Square. Photo by Vincent Desjardins,CC BY 2.0 Pxhere


Walking has been central to the experience of New Yorkers for centuries, and has been critical to forming perceptions of the city for countless writers, activities, planners, and ordinary residents. This course treats walking in New York not as a universal experience, but as a historically specific and culturally determined mode of urban practice.

Students will analyze the changing meaning of walking across time and across the face of the city, through reading and discussing the work of New York authors, and also by observing themselves and others interacting on the city's streets.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Michael Kahan & Gabriella Safran

Michael Kahan is the co-director of the Program on Urban Studies at Stanford University, and a senior lecturer in Sociology. His interest in the historical transformation of urban space has led to publications on topics including the integration of streetcars in the 1850s, sanitation reform in the 1890s, the geography of prostitution in the 1910s, and redevelopment in California in the 1990s. From 2016 to 2020, he served as the convener of the Creative Cities Working Group at Stanford. He holds a B.A. from Yale and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, both in history.

Gabriella Safran

Gabriella Safran is Senior Associate Dean for Humanities and Arts in the School of Humanities and Sciences and the Eva Chernov Lokey Professor of Jewish Studies. Safran served as the first chair of the Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages and is director of the Slavic Languages and Literatures program. Safran also serves as president of the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages. She teaches and writes on Russian literature, Yiddish literature, and folklore.

Her most recent monograph, Wandering Soul: The Dybbuk's Creator, S. An-sky (Harvard, 2010) is a biography of an early-twentieth-century Russian and Yiddish writer who was also an ethnographer, a revolutionary, and a wartime relief worker. She is now completing a book on mid-19th-century Russian writers.