Urban Writing as Voyeurism: Literature in the Age of Spectacle

Madhu Dubey

in Signs and Cities

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print September 2003 | ISBN: 9780226167268
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226167282 | DOI:
Urban Writing as Voyeurism: Literature in the Age of Spectacle

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Accounts of postmodern urbanism often posit a sharp break between the visual regimes of modern and postmodern cities, celebrating the cultural heterogeneity and spatial fluidity of contemporary cities against the rigidly hierarchical structure of their modern variants. This chapter qualifies such claims of rupture, arguing that the postmodern city reinforces the spatial divisions as well as the mechanisms of visual surveillance associated with the modern city. The visual semiotics of postmodern urban space look far less free-floating when viewed through the lens of race. John Edgar Wideman and Toni Morrison expose the contradictory presence of black bodies in modern and postmodern visual media—as objects of desire and fear, objects that are both fetishized as tokens of sexual presence and policed in order to secure normative notions of urban community.

Keywords: postmodern urbanism; cities; race; urban space; John Edgar Wideman; Toni Morrison

Chapter.  20585 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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