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CLASS TIME AND LOCATION: M 3:30-5:30 PM, 306 Smith Hall
OFFICE HOURS: Tu 2-4, 103G Smith Hall

This seminar explores suburban development in the United States and elsewhere around the world from the nineteenth century to present. Our readings and discussions will address the political, economic, and cultural underpinnings of suburban growth, and the social and environmental consequences of urban decentralization. We will explore many different varieties of suburbs across space and time—from upper-class enclaves to middle-class “little boxes” to immigrant communities to high-tech office parks—and we will examine the relationship of these peripheral communities to the larger and more heterogeneous cities they surround. Drawing upon scholarly literature as well as popular sources like films, fiction, and music, the seminar will examine suburbia as a place that both generated and reflected crucial political, social, and economic transformations. Readings and research assignments will also provide a closer examination of Seattle’s suburban landscape and the drivers of regional suburban growth over time.

READINGS (all in paperback; available for purchase at the Bookstore and on 24-hour reserve at Odegaard Undergraduate Library)

  1. John Findlay, Magic Lands: Western Cityscapes and American Culture after 1940
  2. John Friedmann, China’s Urban Transition
  3. Greg Hise, Magnetic Los Angeles: Planning the Twentieth Century Metropolis
  4. Kevin Kruse, White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism
  5. Becky Nicolaides and Andrew Wiese, The Suburb Reader
  6. Adam Rome, The Bulldozer in the Countryside: Suburban Sprawl and the Rise of American Environmentalism

Another essential reference work for this class is the Chicago Manual of Style, available at the reference of nearly all campus libraries. You are not required to buy this book, although this is a highly useful resource for any student researcher’s library.

You should arrive at class each week having read the materials listed for that date (e.g., come to class on October 6 having read assigned excerpts from Nicolaides and Wiese).


Grades for the class will be based on participation and writing.

Your participation grade is based on:

1. Active and thoughtful engagement in class discussion, reflecting completion of assigned readings (20% of total grade);

2. Writing and posting at least one substantive question or comment each week to the online discussion board (10%); and

3. Two in-class presentations on a “person or issue of the week,” accompanied by a two-page written report (10% each, 20% in total).

Your writing grade consists of:

1. A research paper prospectus and bibliography (15%); and

2. A final 15-pp research paper (35%).

Click on the left navigation bar for details of each assignment and grading standards.

The success of this seminar depends on you. Your preparation, active participation, and intellectual engagement with this material and with your fellow students is what will make these hours worthwhile for all of us. Attendance is mandatory, and your participation grade will suffer if you are not in class every week during this very short quarter. Please contact me immediately about anticipated conflicts. In addition, I do not give extensions. I expect you to manage your workload in a way that will allow you to submit all assignments on time.


9/29 Introductory Session

  • Overview of class readings and assignments
  • In-class reading and discussion
  • Sign up for report topic presentations

10/6 The Emergence of Suburbia

READING: Nicolaides and Wiese, pp. 13-135

REPORT TOPICS: Frederick Law Olmsted; Sears Homes; Seattle's First Hill

  • Discussion of research strategies and resources
  • How to write a research prospectus

10/13 Inclusion and Exclusion

READING: Nicolaides and Wiese, pp. 135-257

REPORT TOPICS: Radburn, New Jersey; Herbert Hoover’s ‘Better Homes’ Campaign; Seattle’s Central District

10/20 The Horizontal City

READING: Hise, pp. 1-152; Nicolaides and Wiese, pp. 257-272

REPORT TOPICS: Le Corbusier; Robert Moses; 1956 Comprehensive Plan of Seattle

10/27 Ideals and Realities

READING: Findlay, pp. 52-159, 214-264

REPORT TOPICS: Werner Von Braun; Brussels World’s Fair of 1958; Lake Hills (Bellevue), Washington

  • Research paper prospectus due

11/3 Race, Place, and Politics

READING: Kruse, pp.3-130, 234-266

REPORT TOPICS: Baldwin Hills, California; Shelley v. Kraemer (1948); Proposition 13 (1978)

11/10 The Suburban Environment

READING: Rome, pp. 1-44, 87-188, 255-270

REPORT TOPICS: Rachel Carson; Oregon Senate Bill 100 (1973); Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle (METRO)

11/17 Suburbia Present and Future

READING: Nicolaides and Wiese, pp. 379-499; Friedmann, xiii-125

REPORT TOPICS: “New Urbanism” ; Zhongguancun Science Park (Beijing); James Rouse

11/24 and 12/1 RESEARCH AND WRITING WEEKS (There also will not be office hours these weeks.)

12/12 Final papers due in instructor’s email inbox no later than 5PM.