Studying online

There are now 2 possible online modes for units:

Units with modes Online timetabled and Online flexible are available for any student to self-enrol and study online.

Click on an offering mode for more details.

Unit Overview


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.

6 points
Not available in 2024UWA (Perth)Face to face

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.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

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.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.