Front cover of City Scripts: Narratives of Postindustrial Urban Futures, edited by Barbara Buchenau, Jens Martin Gurr, and Maria Sulimma, featuring a tall concrete wall, set with two large industrial fans, one red and one blue.

City Scripts

Narratives of Postindustrial Urban Futures

Edited by Barbara Buchenau, Jens Martin Gurr, and Maria Sulimma

253 pp. 6 x 9
13 illustrations
1 tables
Pub Date: August, 2023

Subjects: Narrative Studies
Literary Studies, American
Literary Studies, European

order Hardcover $59.95   ISBN: 978-0-8142-1552-4
Order PDF ebook$29.95   ISBN: 978-0-8142-8310-3

“There are tremendous political and economic challenges to creating more just and resilient cities, but City Scripts is a reminder that the stories we tell about cities can be just as important as a new policy or funding scheme. The essays in this volume, along with a great conceptual introduction, are a vital entry point to understanding the importance of literary and cultural analysis in the broader field of urban studies.” —Robert R. Gioielli, author of Environmental Activism and the Urban Crisis: Baltimore, St. Louis, Chicago

“When reading this book, urban planners in the US and Germany will understand why transdisciplinary city narratives often provide better information on what citizens need than do master plans and voluminous technical reports on sustainable development. While declining industrial cities in the US and in Germany have long been branded as losers of economic transformation and capitalism, the case studies at the heart of this book tell other stories—of successful interventions and revitalization.” —Klaus R. Kunzmann, Bartlett School of Planning, University College London

City Scripts reenergizes discussions at the intersection of urban studies and literary and cultural studies. Innovatively reading material spaces using narratological tools developed through the analysis of fictional texts, it will be a rich and productive resource for scholars across disciplines.” —Erin James, author of Narrative in the Anthropocene

Storytelling shapes how we view our cities, legitimizing histories, future plans, and understandings of the urban. City Scripts responds to calls by literary theorists to engage a new kind of narrative analysis that recalibrates close reading and interpretation to the multiple ways in which narratives “do things”—how they intervene in the world and take action in everyday life. A multidisciplinary cast of contributors approaches this new way of looking at cities through the stories people tell about them, looking especially at political activism and urban planning, which depend on the invention of plausible stories of connectedness and of a redemptive future.

The stakes are especially high in cities where economic, ecological, and social futures are delimited by histories of large-scale extraction and racialized industrial labor. Contributors thus focus on cities in postindustrial areas of Germany and the United States, examining how narratives about cities become scripts and how these scripts produce real-life results. This approach highlights how uses of narrative and scripting appeal to stakeholders in urban change. These actors continually deploy narrative, media, and performance, with consequences for urban futures worldwide.

Contributors: Lieven Ameel, Juliane Borosch, Barbara Buchenau, Florian Deckers, Barbara Eckstein, Kornelia Freitag, Walter Grünzweig, Randi Gunzenhäuser, Jens Martin Gurr, Elisabeth Haefs, Chris Katzenberg, Johannes Maria Krickl, Renee M. Moreno, Hanna Rodewald, Julia Sattler, Maria Sulimma, James A. Throgmorton, Michael Wala, Katharina Wood


Barbara Buchenau is Professor of North American Cultural Studies at the University of Duisburg-Essen.

Jens Martin Gurr is Professor of British and Anglophone Literature and Culture at the University of Duisburg-Essen.

Maria Sulimma is Junior Professor of North American Literature and Cultural Studies at the University of Freiburg.


List of Illustrations



Introduction    City Scripts in Urban Literary and Cultural Studies

Maria Sulimma, Barbara Buchenau, and Jens Martin Gurr

Part 1   Urban Spaces

Chapter 1        Black Lives Matter Graffiti and Creative Forms of Dissent: Two Sites of Counterscripting in Denver, Colorado

Florian Deckers and Renee M. Moreno

Chapter 2        Walking Down Woodward: (Re)Telling a City’s Stories through Urban Figures

Juliane Borosch and Barbara Buchenau

Chapter 3        Tiny Architecture and Narrative: Scripting Minimal Urban Living Spaces

Katharina Wood and Randi Gunzenhäuser

Chapter 4        Narrative Path Dependencies in Sustainable and Inclusive Urban Planning: Portland’s Albina Neighborhoods

Elisabeth Haefs and Jens Martin Gurr

Part 2   Urban Literature

Chapter 5        Scripting the Inclusive City, Narrating the Self: Contemporary Rust Belt Memoirs in Poetry and Prose

Chris Katzenberg and Kornelia Freitag

Chapter 6        Whose Detroit?: Fictions of Land Ownership and Property in Postindustrial America

Julia Sattler

Chapter 7        To the Bodega or the Café?: Microscripts of Gentrification in Contemporary Fiction

Maria Sulimma

Chapter 8        Redemptive Scripts in the City Novel

Lieven Ameel

Part 3   Urban Histories of Ideas

Chapter 9        Patterned Pasts and Scripted Futures: Cleveland’s Waterfronts and Hopes of Changing the Narrative

Johannes Maria Krickl and Michael Wala

Chapter 10      The Creative Democracy: A Critique of Concepts of Creativity in Contemporary Urban Discourse

Hanna Rodewald and Walter Grünzweig

Chapter 11      Forms, Frames, and Possible Futures

Barbara Eckstein and James A. Throgmorton


List of Contributors


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