HIST-LIT 90EO: The Reinvention of New York City





Instructor: Mike King
Meeting time: Monday 12:45-2:45 pm

Reinvention of New York CityThe recent history of New York City is one of crisis, resilience, and rebirth. From the terrorist attacks of 9/11 to the devastation of the pandemic, New Yorkers have experienced tragedy and reinvented their city in its aftermath. This is a cycle with a deeper history: in this course we will focus on how New York City reinvented itself in the Seventies and Eighties. On October 16, 1975, New York City was on the brink of bankruptcy. With nearly five hundred million dollars of debt due the next day and only thirty-four million in its bank, catastrophe seemed inevitable. Fortunately, the city was able to raise funds and avoid bankruptcy. Nevertheless, New York City was and had been a space on fire—both literally and figuratively speaking—for at least a decade prior. Landlords burned down buildings to collect insurance; Black, Latinx and LGBTQ communities fought for the right to claim space and protections. In the midst of these fires, however, many different communities seized upon cheap rent and abandoned spaces in order to use them as sites of profound community- and art-making. This course will explore the social and historical contexts under which the residents of New York City contended with precarity in order to create vibrant spaces of living. In order to understand how individuals and communities both understood and created the city around them, students will look at a wide variety of texts, including but not limited to songs, visual art, performance pieces, editorials, and oral histories. Students will be encouraged in how the New York City they know was shaped by this history and what lessons can be drawn from this period of unprecedented creativity as the city once again faces a precarious future.