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The Sociable City
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The Sociable City
An American Intellectual Tradition

Jamin Creed Rowan

208 pages | 6 x 9 | 13 illus.
Cloth 2017 | ISBN 9780812249293 | $47.50s | Outside the Americas £38.00
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors
A volume in the series Arts and Intellectual Life in Modern America

"The Sociable City is an act of recovery, a taut intellectual history dense with insights on the surfaces and depths of urban life."—HIstorical Geography

"The Sociable City is an excellent and sophisticated contribution to the cultural and intellectual history of urbanism. It brings a novel and enriched vocabulary to the history of urban thought through reconsideration of classic writers and the introduction of new ones as well."—Samuel Zipp, Brown University

"Jamin Creed Rowan has provided a much needed book for all of us working to understand the complexity of cities. His clear, nuanced discussion of the ecology of cities advances our collective efforts to build and rebuild relationships with our neighborhoods and each other. The Sociable City boldly reminds us how to hold fast to the intricate web of diversity that comprise the places we call home."—Stephen Goldsmith, Center for the Living City

"With persuasive arguments and highly inventive juxtapositions of sources, Rowan compellingly urges us to consider how Americans have understood and contested the meanings of human interactions in the city. The Sociable City surveys the urban ideas emerging from a strikingly wide-ranging variety of genres, while offering close readings that glisten with creative and surprising insights."—Benjamin Looker, author of A Nation of Neighborhoods

When celebrated landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted despaired in 1870 that the "restraining and confining conditions" of the city compelled its inhabitants to "look closely upon others without sympathy," he was expressing what many in the United States had already been saying about the nascent urbanization that would continue to transform the nation's landscape: that the modern city dramatically changes the way individuals interact with and feel toward one another. An antiurbanist discourse would pervade American culture for years to come, echoing Olmsted's skeptical view of the emotional value of urban relationships. But as more and more people moved to the nation's cities, urbanists began to confront this pessimism about the ability of city dwellers to connect with one another.

The Sociable City investigates the history of how American society has conceived of urban relationships and considers how these ideas have shaped the cities in which we live. As the city's physical and social landscapes evolved over the course of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, urban intellectuals developed new vocabularies, narratives, and representational forms to express the social and emotional value of a wide variety of interactions among city dwellers.

Turning to source materials often overlooked by scholars of urban life—including memoirs, plays, novels, literary journalism, and museum exhibits—Jamin Creed Rowan unearths an expansive body of work dedicated to exploring and advocating the social configurations made possible by the city. His study aims to better understand why we have built and governed cities in the ways we have, and to imagine an urban future that will effectively preserve and facilitate the interpersonal associations and social networks that city dwellers need to live manageable, equitable, and fulfilling lives.

Jamin Creed Rowan is Associate Professor of English and American Studies at Brigham Young University.

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