USS 300

Urban & Suburban Studies

Spring 2006. Tuesday & Thursday  2:00 p.m.-3:50 a.m.  LAC 5.


Instructor: Dr. Steve Macek                                     Office Hours: MWF 10:00-11:30 a.m;

Campus Phone: 630-637-5369                               TH– 4:00-5:00 p.m.; and by

Home Phone: 630-718-0836                                  appointment. 



Office: Pfeiffer Hall, Room 38


Course Description


The city is …something more than a congeries of individual men and of social conveniences—streets, buildings, lights, tramways, and telephones, etc.; something more, also, than a mere constellation of institutions and administrative devices—courts, hospitals, schools, police, and civil functionaries of various sorts. The city is, rather, a state of mind, a body of customs and traditions, and of the organized attitudes and sentiments that inhere in these customs and are transmitted with this tradition. The city is not, in other words, merely a physical mechanism…It is involved in the vital process of the people who compose it.


---Robert Park, “The City: Suggestions for the Investigation of Human Behavior in the Urban Environment” (1916)


It would not be an exaggeration to say that the systematic, social scientific study of American cities – as social, economic and cultural structures and as “vital processes”—was invented right here in Chicago by sociologist Robert Park and his colleagues at the University of Chicago. Park, the other members of the so-called “Chicago School” of urbanists and their students all recognized that cities (and their suburbs) possess a unique ecology and a distinctively fragmented, heterogeneous culture. And they viewed Chicago as the perfect case study against which to test their theories, the very model of a modern industrial metropolis, with all its characteristic virtues and problems.


In USS 300, we will have an opportunity to think and talk broadly about cities and suburbs, about the economic, social and political forces that have shaped their evolution and ecology, and about how race and class relations have shaped the lives, cultures and communities of their inhabitants. And like Park and his associates we will focus our attention on what the exemplary case of Chicago can tell us about cities and suburbs more generally.


Because USS 300 is an interdisciplinary course, it is taught by faculty from different departments with different areas of expertise. I am a media and cultural studies scholar with a special interest in the way the media represent the deep racial and class divisions that mark our major metropolitan areas.  As a consequence, this section of USS 300 will focus on how social polarization and conflict has affected our urban and suburban areas– especially here in the Chicago metropolitan region.  We’ll explore these themes by reading sociological monographs, novels, journalistic accounts of urban life, and political analyses of urban problems as well as by hearing from guest lecturers and taking field trips.  


Required Texts


Harvey Warren Zorbaugh, The Gold Coast and the Slum: A Sociological Study of Chicago’s Near North Side

James T. Farell, Young Lonigan

Richard Wright, Native Son

Eric Klinenberg, Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago

Peter Dreier et. al., Place Matters: Metropolitics for the Twenty-First Century


In addition, I will ask you to read a few shorter articles that will be distributed in class. All chapters from the above books that are not required are strongly recommended.


Procedures, Requirements and Expectations


Course Format. This course combines lecture, discussion and at least two field trips. I will give some prepared lectures and we will watch a couple videos but much of our class time will be devoted to group discussion of course readings and concepts. Please note that my lectures usually supplement, rather than summarize, the readings. Sometimes I will go over the key points of the assigned readings; sometime I won’t even  mention them. In either case, much of the information presented in the lectures will be new. So, if you miss class, please be sure to get the notes from a classmate. I will set aside time for structured group discussion almost every class meeting. For class discussion to flow well, you'll have to do the required reading, complete any required discussion-generating writing assignments and make an effort to participate. In class discussions, it will be my job to pose overarching questions, facilitate and keep the conversation flowing.


Take-Home Writing Assignments. In this course, you will be asked to complete three short take-home writing assignments: a 4-6 page reflection on the book The Goldcoast and the Slum, a 4-6 page essay on Richard Wright’s Native Son and James Farrell’s Young Lonigan, a 4-6 page paper on social justice and the city. Take-home writing assignment sheets will be passed out at least a week before the due date. All writing assignments should be typed or printed in 12 point Times or New York font, double-spaced, have one-inch margins and be stapled together. They should also be relatively free of mechanical and grammatical error. If you write on a computer, be sure to back-up your work. Put your name, the date and the name of the class on all assignments. See the attached Guidelines and Standards for Written Work for more details about my grading criteria and expectations for your writing.


Final Exam. In addition to the writing assignments listed above, there will be a comprehensive final exam during finals week. This exam will be consist of a combination of short answer, identification questions and essay questions.  


Reading Questions. Finally, both as a way of encouraging you to do the reading and to enhance class discussion, I expect you to write up no less than 2 discussion questions on the main reading for each class session that has assigned readings. You should make two copies of these questions: one that will be handed in at the beginning of class and the other for you t o refer to during course of our discussion. These can be handwritten or typed and should normally run no longer than a half a page. The reading questions will not receive a letter grade but instead a check plus (√+), a check (√) or a minus (-). At the end of the term I will give you a global reading question grade based on the cumulative score for all your questions (i.e. if you got a majority of a √s, you’ll get a B; a majority of √+s and you’ll receive an A; a majority of minuses, a C or a D and so on).


Class Participation and Attendance. It will be extremely difficult for you to do well in this course if you don't come to class. I expect you to attend class regularly, to participate in group activities, to be on time and to stay for the entire session. Your record of attendance and contributions to class discussion will determine 10% of your final grade. To receive a high score for your participation, you should not only do the reading for class but also come to class prepared to say something. It might help if you came equipped with a list of questions or a passage from the readings you'd like to discuss.


Grades.  Your grade for the course will be based on the take-home writing assignments, the midterm, the final, your reading questions and your attendance and class participation. The three papers are each worth 20% of your final grade. The final is worth 20%. The reading questions together are worth 10%. Class participation will count for 10% of your grade for the course. To make it easier for me to calculate final grades, each assignment or grade component will receive both a letter grade and a corresponding point score. On my grading scale, an A is 93% to 100% of the possible points, 90 to 92% is an A-, 87% to 89% is a B+, 83% to 86% is a B, 80% to 82% is a B-, 77% to 79% is a C +, 73% to 76% is a C, 70% to 72% is a C-, 67% to 69% is a D+, 60% to 68% is a D and anything less than 59% is an F.


Below is a breakdown of the points for each assignment or final grade component:


3 short papers  @ 200 points=                                                         600 points

1 final exam @ 200 points=                                                             200 points

Grade for reading questions                                                             100 points

Class attendance and participation                                                   100 points


                                                                                                            1000 total points possible


To figure out how you are doing in the course at any time during the term, simply divide the points you've earned so far by the number of points you could've earned.


Late Work. The due dates for each of the writing assignments are clearly listed on the schedule below. Grades on late work will be lowered one letter grade for each week the assignment is overdue.



Course Schedule


Below is a projected schedule of the readings and assignments for the course. We may fall behind schedule from time to time and if we do I’ll make an effort to get us back on track. I encourage you to keep up with the reading even if we are behind schedule and to read ahead if your workload permits. 


Week 1.

Tuesday, March 28. Introductions: Why Urban and Suburban Studies? Studying the Divided City


Thursday, March 30. The Chicago School of Sociology//Introduction to Zorbaugh

Reading: Zorbaugh, Chapters I, II, III



Week 2.

Tuesday, April 4. From the Gold Coast to the Dill Pickle Club

Reading: Zorbaugh, Chapters IV, V, VI



Thursday, April 6. Into the Slums.

Reading: Zorbaugh, Chapters VII, VIII, XII



Week 3.

Tuesday, April 11. Field Trip. Walking Tour of the Gold Coast and the Near North Side

Short Paper #1 Due.


Thursday, April 13. Slum Life (the White Ethnic Experience): Studs Lonigan.

Reading: Farrell, pages 1-107



Week 4.

Tuesday,  April 18. Slum Life (the White Ethnic Experience): Studs Lonigan

Reading: Farrell, pages 107-205.


Thursday, April 20. Slum Life (the African American Experience): Native Son

Reading: Wright, pages 7-92



Week 5.

Tuesday, April 25. Slum Life (the African American Experience): Native Son

Reading: Wright, pages 93-253


Thursday, April 27. Slum Life (the African American Experience): Native Son

Reading: Wright, pages 254-392



Week 6.

Tuesday,  May 2. Walking Tour of the Cabrini Green Redevelopment (Lead by Benet Haller, Department of Urban Planning, City of Chicago)

Reading: Articles on Cabrini (to be distributed)

Short Paper #2 Due.


Thursday, May 4. Discuss Cabrini Trip/ Place Still Matters: Economic and Social Polarization in Contemporary Metropolitan Areas.

Reading: Drier, Chapters 1 and 2

Viewing: Voices of Cabrini



Week 7. 

Tuesday, May 9. The Inner-City, Housing and Disaster.

Reading: Klinenberg, Prologue, Chapter 1 and Chapter 2


Thursday, May 11. Guest Presentation from Representatives of the Coalition to Protect Public Housing.



Week 8.

Tuesday,  May 16. Heatwave Continued.

Reading: Klinenberg, Chapter 3


Thursday, May 18. Unequal Services, Unequal Resources.

Reading: Klinenberg, Chapter 3; Dreier et al., Chapter 3



Week 9.

Tuesday, May 23.The Media and Urban Catastrophe.

Reading: Klinenberg, Chapter  4, 5, Conclusion and Epilogue; Klinenberg essay on Hurricane Katrina (to be distributed)


Thursday, May 25.  Who (or what) is to blame?

Reading: Dreier et al., Chapter 4 and Chapter 5.

Short Paper #3 Due.



Week 10.

Tuesday, May 30.  What is to be done?

Reading: Dreier et al., Chapter 7


Thursday, June 1. Conclusions



Finals Week

Tuesday, June 6, Final Exam.

Guidelines and Standards for Written Work


          • All written work must be typed or printed in dark ink, double-spaced, stapled (not paper clipped) together, in 12 point Times or New York font with one inch margins and should have a title page.  It must be responsive to all aspects of the assignment, including length, and should use the Modern Language Association (MLA) system of documentation and style.

            Written work should be relatively free of mechanical and grammatical error.

            Document every reference, including page numbers whenever possible. Refer to a writer’s manual if you need guidance about how to do this.

            Support claims not common knowledge with evidence and conclusions with argument. Take time to plan your papers and devote some time to rewriting them. Always keep a second copy of your work.

            Assume your reader has not taken this course. Define all terms whose definitions are controversial or obscure. Take time to explain the theories you are using. Include as much detail as you need to support your argument. Illustrations (diagrams, storyboards, photographs, photos of still frames, etc.) are always welcome.

            Avoid racist or sexist language and cliches.

            Grades: Failure to follow any of the above guidelines will result in a lower grade. Otherwise, here are my standards:

            An "A" paper demonstrates that the writer has not only mastered the concepts of the course, but has applied them in an original, imaginative and incisive manner. The paper shows a command of the language that allows the writer to express ideas and observations clearly, effectively, in detail and with virtually no mechanical errors. The paper includes adequate documentation. "A"s are reserved for exceptional essays.

            A "B" paper demonstrates that the writer has understood the concepts of the course and has applied them with some originality. The paper shows the writer can organize a coherent essay with few errors. The paper for the most part includes adequate documentation.

            A "C" paper demonstrates that the writer has understood most of the concepts of the course but needs to pay more attention to reading or writing. Documentation is erratic.

            A "D" paper demonstrates that the writer has only a minimal understanding of the concepts of the course. Significant gaps in the writer's comprehension indicate the need for more study. The paper shows the writer's basic compositional skills are below satisfactory. Documentation is unsatisfactory.

            A "F" paper demonstrates that the writer has little, if any, understanding of the concepts of the course. Because of the writer's lack of skill or concern, the work includes gross errors as well as a lack of content. Documentation is negligible. The paper may also fail to address parts of the assignment.

            A paper may combine characteristics of different levels of work. In that case, the grade will depend on the paper's overall demonstration of knowledge of the material and of college writing skills.

            Please see me if you have questions about my standards or about any of your grades for the course.