ARCT5511 Utopia/Disaster and Imagining the City

6 points
Not available in 2020UWA (Perth)Face to face
Cities have long provided a means for thinking about human identity, society and values. Likewise, the destruction of cities through various means, the consequence of divine wrath or human frailty, has given historical and narrative form to diverse and often opposing values governing ethical conduct and the virtuous life, individual desires and collective responsibilities. We need to look no further than our television screens and cinemas of late to see that this is true. The destruction of cities depicted in films and real-life events, such as the collapse of the Twin Towers, the bombing of Baghdad and the 2004 tsunami devastation in Southeast Asia, reinforce the immensity of human suffering accompanying such disasters. This option unit considers how films, along with other philosophical and literary sources, serve as vehicles for questioning our seemingly precarious relationship with nature and expose fears for our common urban future. The unit draws on longstanding traditions, particularly from biblical, allegorical and Victorian sources, for moralising about fallen cities, but casts this phenomenon as uniquely modern, emblematic of contemporary concerns for the environment and the means we adopt, technical and urban, for living with it.
Students are able to (1) develop an understanding of the influence of idealism and utopianism on the history of cities and (2) gain an understanding of how urbanism has been affected by longstanding philosophical and literary traditions depicting the destruction of cities as these traditions afford an understanding of human identity and values.
Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) a major essay; (2) a critical response (essay); and (3) seminar exercises. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Supplementary assessment is not available in this unit.
Unit Coordinator(s)
Professor William Taylor
Contact hours
lectures and seminars: 3 hours per week for up to 11 weeks
Enrolled students can access unit material via the LMS (Learning Management System).
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Books and other material wherever listed may be subject to change. Book lists relating to 'Preliminary reading', 'Recommended reading' and 'Textbooks' are, in most cases, available via the Booktopia Textbook Finder, which has the functionality to search by course code, course, ISBN and title, and may also be posted or available at the appropriate school's administrative offices. Where texts are listed in the unit description above, an asterisk (*) indicates that the book is available in paperback.