To Wound the Autumnal City

I continue to have fun with the readings for the lit crit. class. This week, I’m teaching my undergrads about new criticism and formalism, and since the example in the textbook offers a description of a city (from Jon McGregor’s _If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things_), I decided to have them look at four other cities in their readings for the week (along with Amanda Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb,” a vision for a nation):

• the opening to Samuel Delany’s _Dhalgren_
• Italo Calvino, “Armilla” from Invisible Cities (…/litteratu…/)
• Benjamin Rosenbaum, “Ylla’s Choice” (…/other-cities-5-of-12…/)

• Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” (…/3.-Le-Guin-Ursula-The…)

We’ll see what they make of them, and whether they end up feeling that a new critical or formalist approach does equal justice to all these pieces.

(I’m sure you can guess what my answer to that would be….)

As a bit of added optional delight for them, I found a recording of Calvino reading this piece, and a page collecting artwork inspired by Invisible Cities:

• Italo Calvino reads “Armilla” from Invisible Cities,…/hear-italo-calvino-read…) — 4 minutes starting in English at 8:40, going to 12:35 (original Italian beforehand)

• some of the illustrations inspired by Invisible Cities (…/2003/09/illustrated_inv.html)


Opening to Dhalgren:

to wound the autumnal city.

So howled out for the world to give him a name.

The in-dark answered with wind.

All you know I know: careening astronauts and bank clerks glancing at the clock before lunch; actresses cowling at light-ringed mirrors and freight elevator operators grinding a thumbful of grease on a steel handle; student riots; know that dark women in bodegas shook their heads last week because in six months prices have risen outlandishly; how coffee tastes after you’ve held it in your mouth, cold, a whole minute.


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