Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett

H42.1040 / Spring 2000

Mondays 3:30-6:10 pm

Department of Performance Studies / Tisch School of the Arts / New York University

721 Broadway, 6th floor, New York, NY 10003

Course Description

Focussing on what Hegel called "the prose of the world," we will consider how the quotidian is constituted in the performances of everyday life. The taken-for-granted world is invisible except under special conditions--when boredom is induced by the sheer repetitiveness of the banal or when poesis transforms the utterly ordinary or when the shock of the sensational, spectacular, or exotic calls the taken-for-granted into question.

Debates over the creative and emancipatory potential of vernacular culture will move us towards a critical theory of everyday life. A close reading of key thinkers such as de Certeau, Williams, Hall, and Harvey will frame our fine-grained analyses of the urban mise-en-scene in New York City, its spatial and temporal organization, its concentrations of power and oppositional practices, its performative modes and values.

We will examine the phantasmagoria of New York city streets and open spaces (Washington Square, Times Square); the vernacular imprint on the built environment (graffiti, sidewalk altars, casitas, vendors, Christmas lights); the festivalizing of the city (Easter Parade, and Hasidic Purim in Brooklyn); home and homelessness; death in the vernacular, including memorial walls in various New York City neighborhoods, and the role of tourism, museums, and performance artists in constituting the quotidian. We will also consider technology in everyday life, particularly the social worlds emerging in cyberspace. Where possible, fieldtrips will be organized to relevant events and parts of the city.

Research Essay

Examine in depth a cultural setting or event in New York. Focus on one of the issues raised in the course. Photography and video/sound recording are strongly encouraged. Essays based on fieldwork are strongly encouraged.. Historical research using primary sources is also appropriate. Essays should combine thick description with analysis that addresses theoretical issues raised in the course. Mechanics of the paper must be under control--copyediting, proofreading, consistent formatting of footnotes and bibliography. Students are encouraged to use this assignment as a pilot project for the masters essay or doctoral dissertation, and to think in terms of presenting this work at the October 2000 meetings of the American Folklore Society meetings in Anchorage, Alaska (deadlines for submissions are fast approaching), November 2000 meetings of the American Studies Association, and April 2001 PSi Conference in Munich, among others. Collaborative projects are strongly encouraged. Due Wednesday April 26.

Research Essay Proposal

We will discuss project ideas in class and in the class newsgroup. In addition, you are encouraged to brainstorm ideas with me during office hours and by email. The topic should be settled and you should already have begun working on it when you submit the proposal. The proposal (2-3 pages, double-spaced) should demonstrate a good match between the case you will analyze and the conceptual focus and theoretical orientation you will use. Show how you will gain access to your subject and explain what you have already done by way of preparation. List the relevant reading, indictating what you have already read. Provide a provisional outline for the paper. Or, alternatively, treat this proposal like you would the long abstract that you are asked to submit when you volunteer a paper for a conference. During the course of the semester, you are encouraged to submit working outlines of the paper as a basis for getting feedback as the project develops. Due Monday February 21.

Oral Report

On Sunday April 30 we will devote the entire day to a symposium during which each person will report orally on their research project. These reports will be formal conference presentations--5 minutes (2 1/2 typed pages) in length--and will also be handed in. This will be the last day of class.

Conference Program
Conference Protocol

Final Portfolio

Final portfolio is to be submitted with the research essay on Sunday April 30.. The portfolio is to include all the work done for the course, including reading responses, fieldwork reports, research essay, and introductory statement that orients the reader to the work presented in the portfolio.

Field Trips

Fieldtrips are planned in connection such events as Chinese New Year, Purim, St. Patrick's Day, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday, among others. The requirement for the course is that you attend as least TWO, and write brief reports on each. You are encouraged to attend as many as you can.

Field Reports

Submit a brief (3 page double-spaced) field report at the beginning of the class following each of the two fieldtrips you attend. Each report should be structured around an observational focus that you decide upon before the field trip, with the help of preparatory class discussion. Class discussion will be based on these reports.


Readings will be available online, in the Performance Studies Archive, at Bobst, and at the NYU Book Center. Weekly reading assignments must be completed before the class for which they are assigned. You will be expected to relate ideas in the readings to class presentations and discussion and to use them in your field reports and research project.

Book order
Resource bibliographies
Research methods
Where to buy books in New York City
Buying books online


Monday February 21: Research proposal

Wednesday April 26: Final research paper and portfolio

Sunday April 30: Oral presentation


The grade is based on participation in class discussion, all written assignments, and the oral presentation. Written work will be evaluated on the basis of conception, research, argument/analysis, and execution (coherence, clarity, structure, style, and control over technical aspects of the writing). Allow time to revise the essay and to proofread it carefully. Study partners are highly recommended. Read each other's papers and suggest revisions and corrections. All assignments MUST be handed in on time. NO INCOMPLETES.


January 24 Introduction

January 31 Space/Place/Time

Saturday February 5 NYC Panorama Fieldtrip (afternoon)

February 7 Space/Place/Time cont'd Field Report due.

Thursday February 10-Saturday February 12 Conference on Globalization and the New Urbanism

February 14 Habitus

February 21 Vernacular/Tradition. Research paper proposal due.

February 28 Writing the City

March 6 Writing the City cont'd.

March 13 Spring Recess

March 20 Memory

Tuesday March 21 Purim fieldtrip (afternoon and night)

March 27 Memory cont'd. Field report due.

April 3 Technology in Everyday Life

April 10 Technology in Everyday Life cont'd

April 17 The Ceremonial City

Friday April 21 Good Friday fieldtrip

Sunday April 23 Easter Parade fieldtrip

April 24 Conclusion. Field Report due.

April 26 Final research paper due.

Sunday April 30 Conference all day. Portfolio due.

May 1 No class

January 24 Introduction


Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara. 1983. The Future of Folklore Studies in America: The Urban Frontier. Folklore Forum 16, 2: 176-234.

January 31 Space/Place/Time

Reading Groups Meet 3:20-4:30, Full class meets 4:45-6:10.


Vidler, A. 1986. The Scenes of the Street: Transformation in Ideal and Reality, 1750-1871. On Streets. ed. S. Anderson, 28- 111. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Casey, Edward S., How to Get from Space to Place in a Fairly Short Time. Senses of Place. eds. Steven Feld and Keith H. Basso, 13-52. Santa Fe, New Mexico: School of American Research Press; 1996..

Auge, Marc. Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity. New York: Verso, 1992.

February 7 Space/Place/Time cont'd

FIELD TRIP: New York City Panorama at the Queens Museum on Saturday February 5, at 3:00 pm. We will meet at the entrance to the Panorama. Please bring binoculars, a laser pointer, and a city map. For details, see Queens Museum of Art. Directions: From Grand Central or Times Square, by Subway: take #7 Flushing IRT, exit 111th Street Station. Walk south on 111th Street to Park entrance at 49th Avenue. Follow yellow signs to the Museum, which is located next to the Unisphere. A fifteen-minute walk. Come earlier if you would like to see their other exhibitions.

Globalization and the New Urbanism: New York and Berlin, Conference at New York University, February 10-12, 2000. To register for the conference, click here. Please try to attend as much of this conference as possible.


Boyer, M. Christine. The panorama of New York City: a parodoxical view. ed. Phillips, Patricia C. City speculations. New York: Queens Museum of Art; 1996.

Stewart, Susan. The Miniature. On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection. 37-69. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press; 1984.

De Certeau, Michel. 1985. Practices of Space. In On Signs, edited by Marshall Blonsky. 122-145. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, pp. 122-145.

Thrift, Nigel. Spatial formations. 2-50. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage, 1996.

Lefebvre, Henri. The production of space. 26-59. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Blackwell, 1991.

February 14 Habitus

Valentine's Day

SCREEN: Clotheslines (Roberta Cantow)


Bourdieu, Pierre. Structures and the Habitus. Outline of a Theory of Practice. 72-95. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977.

Certeau, Michel de. On the oppositional practices of everyday life. Social Text 3, fall (1980):3-43.

Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. 3-37. Boston: Beacon, 1969.

Schutz, Alfred. Multiple Realities. In Rules and Meanings. Mary Douglas, ed. 227-231. Baltimore: Penguin, 1973.


Schmidt, Leigh Eric. St. Valentine's Day Greeting. Comsumer Rites: the Buying and Selling of American Holidays. 38-104. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995.

February 21 Vernacular/Tradition

President's Day: Class will meet


Hall, Stuart. "Notes on Deconstructing the Popular." People's History and Socialist Theory, ed. Raphael Samuel, 227-42. London: Routledge, 1981.

Soloveitchik, Haym. Rupture and reconstruction: the transformation of contemporary orthodoxy. Judaism 28, 4 ( 1994):64-130.

Giddens, Anthony. "Living in a Post-Traditional Society." Reflexive Modernization: Politics, Tradition and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order, eds. Ulrich Beck, Anthony Giddens, and Scott Lash, 56-109. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994.

Williams, Raymond. "Structures of Feeling." Marxism and Literature. 128-35. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.


Gilroy, Paul. "Not a Story to Pass On": Living Memory and the Slave Sublime," The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993.

February 28 Writing the City--Memorial Walls

GUEST: Joseph Sciorra

FIELD TRIP: Saturday March 4, time and place TBA to see memorial walls.


Sciorra, Joseph. In Memoriam: New York City's Memorial Walls. Folklife Annual 90. 144-151. James Hardin, ed. Washington, D.C., Library of Congress, 1991.

Bowler, Anne E., and Blaine McBurney. Gentrification and the Avant-Garde in New York's East Village: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. REALM Research About Lower Manhattan, Working Paper Series, no. 4. New York: New School for Social Research, 1989.

Holston, James and Arjun Appadurai, "Cities and Citizenship," in James Holston, ed. Cities and Citizenship. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1999.


March 6 Writing the City cont'd

SCREEN: Style Wars (Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant)


Stewart, Susan. Ceci Tuera Cela: Grafitti as Crime and Art. Crimes of Writing: Problems in the Containment of Representation. 206-233. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Rose, Tricia."All Aboard the Night Train": Flow, Layering, and Rupture in Postindustrial New York. Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. 21-60. Hanover, New Hampshire: Wesleyan University Press, 1994.

Richard Lachmann, Graffiti as Career and Ideology. American Journal of Sociology, 94, 2 (1988): 229-250.


March 13 Spring Recess: No Class

Friday March 17, St. Patrick's Day Parade

March 20 Memory

FIELD TRIP: Tuesday March 21, Fieldtrip to Williamsburg (afternoon) and Boro Park (night) for Purim.


Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, B. 1990. Performance of Precepts/Precepts of Performance: Hasidic Celebrations of Purim in Brooklyn. By Means of Performance: Intercultural Studies of Theatre and Ritual. eds. R. Schechner, and W. Appel, 109-117. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kugelmass, J. 1988. Between Two Worlds: Notes on the Celebration of Purim among New York Jews, March 1985. Between Two Worlds: Ethnographic Essays on American Jewry. 33-51. ed. J. Kugelmass, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Epstein, Shifra. "Drama on a Table: the Bobover Hasidim Pirimshpiyl." Judaism Viewed From Within and Without: Anthropological Studies, ed. Harvey E. Goldberg, 195-217. Albany, New York: SUNY Press, 1987.

Emerson, Robert M., Rachel I. Fretz, and Linda L. Shaw. Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes. 1-16, 30-38, 46-65. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.


Mintz, Jerome. Hasidic People: A Place in the New World. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992.

Heilman, Samuel C. Defenders of the Faith Inside Ultra-Orthodox Jewry. New York: Schocken Books, 1992.


Purim with
Food for Thought
Virtual Beth Midrash
Chabad in Cyberspace
Interactive Purim Guide

March 27 Memory cont'd

Field report due.

Purim 2000 Fieldtrip Photographs of the tish at the Bobover besmedresh courtesy of Lacey Torge.


Dobkin, Toby Blum. 1979. The Landsberg Carnival: Purim in a Displaced Person's Center. Purim: The Face and the Mask. Ed. Shifra. Epstein, 52-60. New York: Yeshiva University Museum.

Bakhtin, Mikhail. Aesthetic Visualizing of Time/Space: The Chronotope. The Bakhtin Reader.180-187. Ed. Pam Morris. London: Arnold, 1994.

Emerson, Robert M., Rachel I. Fretz, and Linda L. Shaw. Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes. 65-107, 211-216. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Ritchie, Donald. 1995. Conducting Interviews. Doing Oral History. 57-85. New York: Twayne.


Smith, Anna Deveare. 1993. Fires in the Mirror. New York: Anchor Books.

April 3 Technology in Everyday Life--The Bagel


Gabaccia, Donna R. History of the Bagel. We Are What We Eat: Ethnic Food and the Making of Americans. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998.


Latour, Bruno. 1993. We have never been modern. trans. Catherine Porter. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Norman, Donald A. The Psychology of Everyday Things. New York: Basic Books, 1988.

April 10 Technology in Everyday Life--Life Online

GUEST: Terri Senft


Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara. "The Electronic Vernacular." Connected, ed. George Marcus, 21-65. Late Editions, volume 3.. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Markham, Annette N. Interview with Terri Senft. Life Online: Researching Real Experience in Virtual Space. 190-199. Walnut Creek, Calif: Altamira Press, 1998.

Johnson, Steven. Interface Culture: How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate. 11-41. San Francisco: HarperEdge, 1997.

Jones, Steve. CyberSociety 2.0: Revisiting Computer-Mediated Communication and Community. 2-34. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, 1998.


Hayles, N. Katherine. 1999. How we became posthuman: virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature, and informatics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Mitchell, William J. City of Bits: Space, Place, and the Infobahn. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1995.


Sexuality and Cyberspace, Women and Performance, 17.

April 17 The Ceremonial City

April 19 and 20. Passover seders Passover links

Friday April 21. Good Friday. Fieldtrip to Lower East Side for Stations/Way of the Cross processions. Click on links for maps.

St. James Church--noon for the Tenebre service; Way of the Cross starts at 1 pm from the St. James Church (35 St. James, at Madison, near Chatham Square), and ends at 3 pm. A Spanish language service follows.

St. Brigid's, St. Emerick, and Mary Help of Christians--Way of the Cross (bilingual) starting at 4 pm from Mary Help of Christians (440 E. 12th St. between First Avenue and Avenue) and ending at St. Brigid's before 7 pm. Service follows at St. Brigid's.

Sunday April 23. Easter Sunday. Fieldtrip to Fifth Avenue for Easter Parade. Meet outside St. Patrick's Church on Fifth Ave, between 50th and 51rst Streets, opposite Rockefeller Plaza, at noon.

"Easter Parade," by Leo Reisman and Clifton Webb (words) and Irving Berlin (music), 1933.
14th Annual Easter Bonnet Competition (Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids)


Zerubavel, Eviatar. "The Calendar, Sacred Time and Profane Time." Hidden Rhythms: Schedules and Calendars in Social Life, 70-137. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

Schmidt, Leigh Eric. "Easter Parade." Comsumer Rites: the Buying and Selling of American Holidays. 192-243. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995.

Peters, F. E. "The Procession That Never Was: The Painful Way in Jerusalem." TDR 29 (1985): 31-41.

Stations of the Cross
Way of the Cross
Seventh Precinct Profile
Lower East Side


Observations of Life in Lower Manhattan at the Turn of the Century

April 24 Conclusion

Field report due.

Wednesday April 26. Final research paper due.

Sunday April 30 Conference (all day)

Conference Program
Conference Protocol

Final portfolio due.

May 1 No class
Updated 4/25/2000