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Walking and Writing in New York

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SiNY 109 - Walking and Writing in New York

Walking has been central to the experience of New Yorkers for centuries, and it has been -- and remains still -- critical to countless writers, activists, city planners, and ordinary residents. This course treats walking not as a universal experience, but as a historically specific and culturally determined mode of urban activity. It asks students to consider the specifics of New York and its boroughs:  the grid, the rivers, the city's position as a nexus of trade, art, business, migration, and intellectual activity. It addresses literature written about New York walking over the course of two centuries with the help of readings from Jane Jacobs, Emma Lazarus, Herman Melville, Alfred Kazin, Teju Cole, Walt Whitman, Frank O'Hara , Min Jin Lee and others.  A crucial feature of this class will be visits to neighborhoods we read about, tasing food at neighborhood restaurants, visits with local chefs, artists, and activists. Together we'll analyze the changing meaning of walking across time and across the face of the city by reading and discussing and also by observing themselves and others interacting on the city streets. 

This course fulfills the Aesthetic and Interpretive Inquiry (A-II) and Social Inquiry (SI) WAYS requirements. 

Meet the Instructor(s)

Steven Zipperstein

Steven J. Zipperstein is the Daniel E. Koshland Professor in Jewish Culture and History at Stanford University. He has also taught at universities in Russia, Poland, France, and Israel; for six years, he taught at Oxford University. For sixteen years he was Director of the Taube Center for Jewish Studies at Stanford. 

He is the author and editor of nine books including The Jews of Odessa: A Cultural History (1986, winner of the Smilen Prize for the Outstanding book in Jewish history); Elusive Prophet: Ahad Ha’am and the Origins of Zionism (1993, winner of the National Jewish Book Award); Imagining Russian Jewry(1999); and Rosenfeld’s Lives: Fame, Oblivion, and the Furies of Writing (2008, shortlisted for the National Jewish Book Award in Biography, Autobiography and Memoir).  His work has been translated into Russian, Hebrew, and French. His most recent book, Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History, published by Liveright/WW Norton, (2018 ) was shortlisted as the best non-fiction book of the year by the Mark Lytton Prize, named as a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award, and a Book of the Year by "The Economist, "Ha-Aretz" and "Mosaic Magazine. Widely reviewed, Pogrom inspired the 2019 novel The Adventures of the Peculiar Protocols by Nicolas Meyer, and several plays now in production.  He is currently at work on a biography of Philip Roth for Yale's Jewish Lives. Zipperstein’s articles have appeared in The New York Times Sunday Book Review, the Washington Post, The New Republic, the Jewish Review of BooksChronicle of Higher Education and elsewhere.  

Zipperstein has served as editor of the journal Jewish Social Studies for twenty years, and the book series Stanford Studies in Jewish History and Culture for a quarter of a century. Currently, together with Anita Shapira, he is series editor of the award-winning Yale University Press/Leon Black Foundation Jewish Lives series which has, to date, published nearly sixty books.  Zipperstein is the immediate past Chair of the Academic Advisory Council of the Center for Jewish History.  His PhD students now teach at dozens of universities here, and abroad, including the University of Chicago, UCLA, Queens College, CUNY, Yeshiva College, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Northwestern, University of Florida, Gainsville, and elsewhere.

Zipperstein's contributions to the field have been recognized by the Leviant Prize of the Modern Language Association, the Judah Magnes Gold Medal of the American Friends of the Hebrew University, and the Koret Prize for Outstanding Contributions to the American Jewish community.  He has held fellowships at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University, the Institute for Advanced Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Yitzhak Rabin Institute in Tel Aviv, and has twice been a Visiting Professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes Sciences Sociales.  In spring 2014, he was the first Jacob Kronhill Scholar at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, in New York. 

In 2022, he won the Humanities and Sciences Dean's Award for Excellence in Graduate Education. In 2023, Zipperstein was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.